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The curious case of Arthur C Clarke, MI5 and the runaway millionaire

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The 27-year-old computer tycoon Joseph de Saram who reportedly fled to Sri Lanka after his computer business went bust has spoken to the Daily Mail at length over what has really happened.

In words reminiscent of that other great entrepreneur Asil Nadir, Joseph proceeded to explain exactly why he had left the country. First of all though, he has plenty of money, so don't worry if you're one of the companies owed their share of the £1 million that his company Rhodium owes.

Now, the real reason he has returned to his homeland of Sri Lanka is because of MI5 spooks. They are terrified of Joseph because he has designed some encryption software that will make it impossible for them to monitor any emails, thereby making a mockery of the RIP Act. That's why he has been under helicopter surveillance in the UK, has been followed by shadowy figures and cars with government number plates and sees people "talking into their sleeves" whenever he has a restaurant meal.

It is also the reason that his company's cheques have been mysteriously bouncing at the bank. They are trying to bring him to his knees, see. And the fact that he is Asian doesn't help either.

If true, this is disturbing and abusive behaviour by our secret services, and Joseph is quite right to demand an explanation before he returns to the UK. However, before you start shouting conspiracy, you ought to bear in mind a few things about Mr de Saram and his company Rhodium.

First of all, the company's official site seems to be little more than a tribute to Mr de Saram genius and business nous. In fact, the introduction to the company has the file name "genius.htm" and begins "Joseph de Saram was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1972. His parents were eminent physicians in the country and immigrated to the United Kingdom soon afterwards. He spent his formative years in..."

It isn't until the fourth paragraph that we learn anything about the company itself. In the sixth paragraph, the truth comes out: "He decided to restructure Rhodium in September 2000 after discovery of evidence implicating the British Government in a conspiracy to destroy Rhodium and his character because his encryption technology and commercial operations were 'not in the economic well-being' of the United Kingdom."

If you wanted to learn anything more about Mr de Saram, you could do worse than click on one of the two photographs on the site - both of him. Or, failing that, the picture of his Centurion Card. Or the pic of his (blue) Ferrari 355 F1. What about the images of his mention in the Sunday Times richlist or Britain's Richest Asian 200?

If you look close enough, you may even find some information about the company's products - it specialises in hardware and software for banks and financial organisations, particularly encryption and e-transactions.

Rhodium is also not the company's real name. No, it's actually Rhodium PLC. It is a privately held company, with Joseph's Dad as CFO.

Figures of 90 staff being out of jobs may well be true, but we have been able to confirm only seven permanent staff members. According to Joseph, Rhodium is worth "in excess of $200 million". A book value of £4.5 million has been given independently to the company, and this was largely based on a 58 per cent increase in profit last year to £419,000. Since Rhodium is a private company, it does not have to publicly release its financial details.

Mr de Saram said there was nothing suspicious about catching a plane to Sri Lanka without notice as he always "just buys a ticket and gets on a plane".

He headed over there to work on a project with sci-fi writer Arthur C Clarke to build a version of the famous super-computer from 2001 - A Space Odyssey, HAL. Sir Arthur told the Daily Mail that the relationship would have to be put "on hold" until Joseph's problems in the UK were sorted out.

Mr de Saram will come back to the UK and it will be under his own free will. ®

Related Link

Rhodium.com

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