Bones, London archaeologist Jay Carver said. They tell us much, but it takes time. We had plague. We had disease. We had Bedlam. We had centuries of overcrowded city. So, yes, we have lots of bones. Bones. They are part of the mystery being churned up in the tunnels of Londons new Crossrail network, Europes largest ongoing construction project, upon which urban archaeologists are piggy-backing for one of the largest excavations into this storied citys oh-so-very-lurid past. Europe, after all, is a neighborhood steeped in soil and history. And in this neck of the global woods, nothing brings the light of discovery quite like the building of a transit system. In Rome, which makes London look like a rank newcomer, engineers building a subway line have hit major delays after tripping over the likes of a second-century auditorium just yards from the Forum. In Cologne, Germany, where a 21 / 2-mile railway is under construction, archaeologists found the remains of a 2,000-year-old Roman harbor.
London steps up Islamic finance ambitions
Aiming to build on London’s status as a leading exporter of financial services, Britain hopes to step up the challenge to Islamic finance centres such as Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. “We want to be the leading (Islamic) finance sector outside of the Muslim world,” deputy mayor of London Edward Lister said in a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. Islamic finance follows religious principles such as bans on interest and gambling, and is playing an increasingly prominent role internationally as often oil and gas-rich investors from Islamic countries put more of their money to work overseas. Britain’s Islamic finance task force, established in March, is led by several ministers and industry figures as well as top executives from Gatehouse Bank and Oakstone Merchant Bank Ltd. It was launched ahead of London hosting the World Islamic Economic Forum in October and its mandate is to facilitate Islamic financial business, including investment in British infrastructure by Islamic sovereign wealth funds. The forum, which saw 28 billion ringgit ($8.6 billion) worth of deals inked last year, is being held outside an Islamic city for the first time. Islamic finance has already played a role in several major deals in London, with Qatari investors taking part in funding the city’s Shard tower, Harrod’s department store and the athletes’ village used for last year’s summer Olympics. A Malaysian consortium is also spearheading the redevelopment of London’s Battersea power station, after acquiring the site for 400 million pounds last year. Malaysia is the second largest investor in London’s real estate market behind the United States. “The task force has just started and its aim is to make it easier for banks in London to have Islamic products, which is still quite a new concept to any of them,” Lister said. “Only now people are beginning to understand what the products actually mean and how they comply … What you will see is a lot of companies introducing those products.” Maybank Islamic, an arm of Malaysia’s largest bank Malayan Banking Bhd, has launched a sterling-denominated and sharia-compliant mortgage product for high net-worth Malaysians looking to invest in London’s real estate market.
“Anything less is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” The Federal Reserve, and Financial Conduct Authority in Great Britain also settled their investigations with the bank. “We have accepted responsibility and acknowledged our mistakes from the start, and we have learned from them and worked to fix them,” said JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon in a statement issued by the bank. “We will continue to strive towards being considered the best bank across all measures not only by our shareholders and customers, but also by our regulators.” In an unrelated issue, the Comptroller of the Currency announced enforcement actions against the bank Thursday for unfair billing practices related to identity-theft protection and for problems in connection with efforts to ensure that service members receive credit protection for their non-home loans. The bank said it had moved to redesign its practices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also ordered JPMorgan and its consumer and commercial division to pay $309 million in refunds for improper credit card practices. The bank said it had already issued credits or refunds to customers who were affected. JPMorgan shares closed down 1.2% at $52.75 in Thursday trading. Despite the new London whale settlements, JPMorgan still faces a criminal investigation of the trading episode by federal prosecutors and a separate civil probe by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Iksil, who no longer works for the bank, is cooperating with the criminal investigation by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office in New York. In a federal affidavit filed last month, two other former JPMorgan Chase employees directly involved in the London whale trades were charged with conspiracy, falsifying books and records, wire fraud and making false filings with the SEC. The two, Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout, were formally indicted Monday on charges they manipulated and inflated the value of the trading positions to cover up the true size of the deepening losses. London-based lawyers for Martin-Artajo have said they were confident he would be cleared of any wrongdoing. New York defense attorney Edward Little this week said Grout “was a junior trader’s assistant acting under the direct instructions of his managers and has been unjustly used as a pawn in the government’s attempt to settle its highly politicized case against JPMorgan Chase.” In announcing the charges against the two traders, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara signaled that senior bank officials had been aware of what the London traders had been doing.