Archive 2005-- Click here for current ICP Global Inner Cities Report, reports from the United Nations
Inner City Press welcomes readers' comments or critiques.
January 3, 2006 -- Iraqis Absent from Oil Oversight Meeting on Development Fund for Iraq, Purportedly Due to Visa Problems
On December 28, four of the five members of the oversight board of the Development Fund for Iraq answered reporters’ questions for an hour at the United Nations in New York. Missing was the representative of Iraq on the International Advisory and Monitoring Board. The explanation offered by the IAMB’s chairman Jean-Pierre Halbwachs was that the Iraqi representatives had not been able to obtain U.S. visas in time. Their absence proved convenient, as questions soon arose about a line in Mr. Halbwachs prepared remarks, regarding the ongoing lack of metering on oil production in Iraq. Mr. Halbwachs read out: “we understand that a recent agreement has been reached between the Government of Iraq and a U.S. company to undertake the task” of oil metering.
When asked for the name of the U.S. company, the IAMB chairman’s response was that only the Iraqi representatives would have that information. When a question arose about the Iraqi representative’s written reference to the cost of metering being covered by “donations,” no answer was forthcoming. When asked why it has taken two years to make even this gesture toward metering, the representative of the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development Khalifa Ali Dau shrugged and smiled. Finally, the IMF’s deputy press secretary said he will be providing follow-up information about the metering contract (presumably on the IAMB’s web site, www.iamb.info).
There were questions about KPMG’s partial audit, and Halliburton’s subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root. The IMF’s representative Bert Keuppens confirmed reports of oil smuggling out of, and in some cases back into, Iraq.
When asked in conclusion to assign a grade to the transparency of the spending process at the Development Fund for Iraq, the World Bank’s representative Fayezul Choudhury declined to assign a grade, and pointed out that even most European Union countries, and also the United States, have only qualified opinions from their auditors. The press conference ended with many questions unanswered. The IMF’s Bert Keuppens rushed out of the briefing room. He returned a few minutes later and handed out two business cards. It would have made sense, one wag said, to provide contact information for the representatives to the IAMB from Iraq. And to have thought more deeply about this question of their visas. Again, the IAMB’s web site is www.iamb.info...
December 26, 2005
At the United Nations on December 21, Kofi Annan accused British journalist James Bone of “behaving like an overgrown schoolboy in this room for many, many months and years.” Bone had asked about Kofi Annan’s son’s Kojo’s purchase of a Mercedes for $14,000 using diplomatic discounts intended only for the secretary-general. Close observers of UN-media relations note that Annan’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric had been asked the same question by Bone on Monday, December 19, but had not answered. The focus of the Monday press briefing had been the UN’s inquiry into Syria’s involvement in political assassinations in Lebanon. The questions about procurement impropriety and nepotism were a side show on Monday, but became the source of a rare outburst by Annan on Wednesday. The U.N. Correspondents Association has come to James Bone’s defense, and many correspondents, including this one, note that the nepotism and even corruption questions have yet to be answered.
More seriously, late on December 23, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a $3.8 billion two-year budget for the organization, beating the end-of-year deadline. The budget is in effect an extension to require consideration of changes to the structure of the organization before June 2006, when the $980 million allocated for 2006 will run out.
This “mind-focusing” function is similar to two other recent extensions: to that adopted in Washington by the House of Representatives, where earlier in the week the USA Patriot Act was extended for five weeks, and to the not-yet-disclosed understanding that on December 22 broke the impasse between the MTA and transit workers’ union. This putting off until tomorrow (or next year) the problems of today is the current trend, as 2005 comes to a close.
The denouements will unfold in 2006 in this order: on January 20 in state supreme court in Brooklyn there will be a hearing on the $3 million in fines imposed on the Transit Workers’ Union. In early February, the USA Patriot Act is slated again to expire. And in or before June, the United Nations will run out of money. Then these decisions deferred in this pre-Christmas week will come due… or perhaps be extended again.
December 5, 2005
Last week, France-based Total agreed to settle a lawsuit for illegal labor practices, paying eight oil pipeline workers more than $6 million. Citizens of Myanmar -- formerly known as Burma -- agreed to drop charges against Total that alleged the company used forced labor to build the Yadana gas pipeline in the country in exchange for the payouts and the establishment of a fund to compensate victims of human rights violations. Unocal Corp., Total's partner on the Yadana gas project, settled a similar lawsuit of forced labor violations in March. The charges were directly related to the 1996 construction of the 60-mile pipeline through Southeast Asia. Villagers said Unocal worked with the brutal military regime in Myanmar to find and control laborers... -by staff reporter Matthew Lee
November 28, 2005
This week, China’s engagements in Africa, with Sudan, Zimbabwe and others. Chinese government figures now show that state and private companies have pumped $100 million into Zambia - mostly its copper industry - during the past four years. At the start of the year, Angola signed a $2 billion deal with China, selling oil and future exploration rights. And Chinese engineering firms are providing most of the expertise behind a $1.2 billion dam on the fourth cataract of the Nile in Sudan. Zimbabwean earlier this year took delivery of three aircraft from a Chinese manufacturer. The Irish Times last week opined that “China is able to exploit markets in countries with questionable human rights records because its companies are not subjected to legal challenges by home-grown pressure groups, unlike in the West. Nor are they worried about corporate image in the same way as western companies.” Food for thought…
Meanwhile, Dutch-based ABN Amro, which claims to eschew high-cost subprime lending in the United States, has bought into a subprime lender in Australia. On November 22, ABN Amro Capital Australia agreed to buy a 39.2% stake in Australian “non-conforming lending specialist” Bluestone Group for an undisclosed sum. Its spokesman JP Kaumeyer bragged that “Bluestone is very well-positioned to benefit from the forecasted ongoing growth in the issuance of nonconforming mortgages as well as the expected growth in equity release mortgages.” Great…
Finally for this week, a quote from, and reaction to, “Organic Intellectuals and counter-hegemonic politics in the age of globalization: The case of ATTAC,” by Vicki Birchfield and Annette Freyberg-Inan, in “Critical Theories, International Relations and the ‘Anti-Globalization Movement,” edited by Catherine Eschle and Bice Maiguashca (Routledge 2005). The quote:
“ATTAC associations see themselves as part of a movement for critical, popular education. All ATTAC publicity material, whether on websites or in print publications, describes the association as an educational movement and a counter-establishment social force, as opposed to a conventional NGO or issue-based social movement… the key difference being that in ATTAC there is ‘no hierarchical order and no top-down decision-making about common actions’…The fact that a more permanent transnational organizational structure has yet to emerge (there is no international headquarters, for example) is a reflection of ATTAC’s commitment to local autonomy and cultural diversity.”
The reaction / review: What the authors do no sufficiently question or explore, Inner City Press opines, is the degree to which particular global financial institutions -- as four examples Citigroup, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas – are not sufficiently targeted by ATTAC. It’s fine to talk about Gramsci and the Tobin Tax. But where the rubber meets the road, there are trillion-dollar institutions running circles around existing rules and even counter-rules…
November 21, 2005
This week we review a dry but quite interesting book, Reinventing Accountability: Making Democracy Work for Human Development, by Anne Marie Goetz and Rob Jenkins (Palgrave 2005). The authors did most of the research while working on the United Nations Development Programs 2002 report, Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World. For that reason, the book provides example from all over the world, from the expansion in India of public interest law and of theories of standing and facilitated filing by letter, so-called epistolary jurisdiction, to Bangladesh, where it is reported that micro-finance programs are known to favor better-off villagers for credit, even though they are above the poverty line. The book recites litigation in the United States for a range of alleged violation: Texaco for the adverse economic impacts of its activities in Ecuador; Unocal for human rights abuses associated with its investment in Myanmar; Freeport McMoran for environmental destruction caused by its copper mine in Indonesia...[and] action against Rio Tinto for its Rossing Uranium mine in Namibia. And so it goes... -by staff reporter Matthew Lee
November 14, 2005
Our review this week is of The U.N. Building, by Ben Murphy (Thames & Hudson 2005). It begins with black and white photographs of the building being built (stopping at 39 rather than the planned 45 floors, due to budget constraints), including rarely seen views of the private apartment of Dag Hammarskjold on the 39th floor, Scandinavian furniture facing the East River and Queens. Everything is very Jetsons, from the curvy balconies of the General Assembly Hall to the special UN signage typeface, a sans-serif based on Futura. As one caption puts it, Some of the buildings most endearing features are in the details, such as the vintage clocks or exit signs that might be overlooked during discussion, and yet they very quickly evoke an era in which the building was designed and built. Of that era, another caption (page 128) says, At the time the Secretariat was designed, the architects considered the view east over the river more desirable, and therefore located the restrooms on the western side [with] glorious views of the skyline. There are photographs of the printing plant (the largest internal reproduction plant in New York City) and of the mail room, of which it is noted that the U.N. receives an average of 6.6 million pieces of mail per year, mostly from the United States. That last seems strange: the country that least believes in the U.N. sends it the most mail. Or maybe the USPS doesnt allow in some of the mail directed to the U.N. from outside the United States
November 7, 2005
Citigroup bragged last week of its hiring of ex-World Banker James Wolfensohn, to add to a roster already including Robert Rubin, who has still done nothing to address CitiFinancials predatory lending (and took no public position on Citis super high cost HOEPA loans in 2004, leaving that task to the now-gone Bob Willumstad). As noted by the FT, the announcement came just a day after the world's biggest financial services group said it had hired Shengman Zhang, Mr. Wolfensohn's former number two at the World Bank, to be chairman of its public sector group. Heres a thought: why doesnt the World Bank have anti-revolving door policies, as even the U.S. bank regulators have had to adopt?
On Citigroups continued globalization of standardless subprime (predatory) lending, the Polish News Bulletin of October 31 reported that CitiFinancial, a department offering cash loans to less wealthy clients, will help it strengthen its position. After two years of operating, CitiFinancial's assets are worth around ZL 560 million and the department is beginning to generate a return on investment. In the near future it will diversify its offer. High cost consumer lending in Poland by CitiFinancial -- what will Wolfensohn have to say about that? Well see. Or about this?
Nov 2, 2005 - SEOUL (Reuters) - A one-day strike by unionized workers at Citibank Korea shut one third of its branches on Wednesday, the company said, with the union threatening to escalate the action over pay and welfare benefits. The union represents about 2,700 employees from former KorAm bank, which Citigroup Inc. acquired for $2.7 billion last year, and accounts for nearly half of Citibank Korea's workforce... The union said in a statement its members would boycott selling investment and bancassurance products beginning Thursday.
ICP/Fair Finance Watch on November 4 filed comments with regulators in Colombia and Spain on the October 31 proposal by Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria Colombia to acquire Granahorrar. Cited in ICPs comments is an enforcement action announced November 4 by the OCC against Laredo National Bank and its the subprime affiliate Homeowners Loan Corporation. When BBVA applied to acquire both companies, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch submitted comments, demonstrating disparities at Homeowners Loan Corporation (and reported in the December 14, 2004, American Banker and December 13, 2004 MarketWatch). The disparities in New York were as follows:
In the New York City MSA in 2003, for mortgage refinance loans, HLC reported originating 1.92 loans to African Americans for each loan to a white. The aggregate in this MSA made 0.24 refinance loans to African Americans for each loan to a white. HLC targets its higher cost loans at African Americans EIGHT TIMES more frequently than whites
BBVA withheld from ICP most of its answers to regulators, and, tellingly, tried to give ICP its 2004 HMDA data in paper form, making further analysis difficult. ICP finally got the information and filed more comments. The regulators in March 2005 approved BBVAs applications, but the story continued, leading to the OCCs $14 million fine. And now a new round of comments, to Bogota and Spain. The globalization of predatory lending...
October 31, 2005
At the United Nations Environment Program Financial Initiative meeting on October 26, there was bragging about Citigroups micro-finance programs. But when the head of Citigroups microfinance group was asked about the relation between his unit and the larger subprime CitiFinancial was, he referred to CitiFinancial and other micro-finance institutions wanting effective regulation and transparency. His answer -- which a number of observers including from Citigroup peer banks and rating agencies notes was not at all responsive -- ignored that Citigroup has lobbied against regulation and transparency; it also implies that Citigroup is including its high-cost CitiFinancial unit in its definition of micro-finance. Also not addressed: Deutsche Banks failure to respond to a complaint to the UN Global Compact (by ICP/Fair Finance Watch) regarding Deutsche Banks business with the dictator of Turkmenistan. For shame...
In other portions of the meeting, in a session called Lending for a sustainable future, a representative from Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi claimed that since civil society in Japan is not mature, only the banks can improve society. In the micro-finance session, the moderator said that in a recent trip to India shes found that a microfinance institution is about to get paid to be a distribution channel for the product of Proctor & Gamble
Click here for Inner City Press
October 31 review of a recent (2005) book about the United Nations.
-by staff reporter Matthew Lee
-by staff reporter Matthew Lee
October 24, 2005
Speaking in Mexico City last week, HSBCs Stephen Green bragged that We have a very significant platform in Brazil. Its become largely subprime: HSBC has been present in Brazil since 1997, but it was not until 2003 that it started to grow aggressively with the acquisition of consumer finance company Losango and other assets from Lloyds TSB for $815 million. The following year, HSBC bought the consumer finance operations of Indusval Multistock Group for $166 million) and purchased consumer finance company CrediMatone from local bank Banco Matone for 30 million reais. "We did invest, both in terms of the original acquisition of the bank there and more recently of the consumer finance business there so actually in Brazil we think we have a very good platform," Green added. HSBC now wants to bank Losango's 16 million customers by offering them credit cards as the first step toward opening a checking account. HSBC has also started to expand the range of products it sells through Losango to include small ticket life insurance policies. Small ticket -- and high cost. Meanwhile, Standard Bank Group says it is in talks to buy Bank of America's BankBoston Argentina unit...
October 17, 2005
We note, like RSF, the Chinese government's refusal to issue tourist visas to French journalists Claude B. Levenson and Jean-Claude Buhrer, Le Monde's former correspondent at the UN in Geneva. They applied for their visas at the Chinese embassy in Bangkok for a trip to Chengdu. Consular officials there told them the refusal was probably due to their "activities" as journalists. We also note, and therefore link to, four of the sites blocked by the Chinese government: www.ehoron.com and www.monhgal.com (both in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, for allegedly hosting "separatist" content); and www.uyghuramerican.org and www.uhrp.org ...
October 10, 2005
ICP/Fair Finance Watch has filed comments with the Central Bank of Iraq Governor Dr. Sinan Al-Shibibi on HSBCs proposal to acquire a 70% stake in Dar Es Salaam Investment Bank there. The proposal was commented on publicly by HSBC last week: We are very close to concluding an agreement, David Hodgkinson, the chief executive officer of HSBC Bank Middle East, told a news conference.. Hodgkinson later told Reuters that HSBC was looking to buy 70%, not just the 51% previously mentioned... the Iraqi central bank said it has received a request to approve HSBC's purchase of a 51% stake from the Khudairy family. Beyond predatory lending, HSBCs lack of anti-money laundering standards seem particularly relevant. Well see.
In the past week, Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch has filed comments with regulators in Turkey and the Philippines opposing bank acquisition proposals by General Electric Consumer Finance. This stealth player, which owns subprime lender WMC in the United States, confines its highest-rate lending to overseas (and to protected classes, particularly Latinos, here in the Americas).
In Manila, ICP has commented HSBCs proposal to acquire a controlling stake in Keppel Bank Philippines, reported in the Washington Post of October 3, 2005: GE Consumer Finance, based in Stamford, will acquire a majority interest in Keppel Bank Philippines for $25.8 million.
Beyond environmental and other matters, ICP cites the 2004 U.S. mortgage lending data of GEs subprime / high cost mortgage lender, WMC. The National Mortgage News of April 26, 2004, reported that GE has agreed to buy WMC Mortgage... the nation's 12th largest subprime funder... According to figures compiled by NMN, WMC originated $8.1 billion last year. In 2004 to borrowers identified as Hispanic and African-American, over 65% of GEs WMCs loans were high cost / rate spread, defined by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board as over three percentage points over comparable Treasury Securities on first liens, 5% on subordinate liens. To non-Hispanic whites, the percentage was below 53%. This compares unfavorably with GE WMCs peers, and is indicative of GE Consumer Finances targeting of protected classes for higher than normal interest rate credit.
GEs predatory lending is not limited to the United States. See, e.g., Office of Fair Trading Delivers Damning Verdict on Store Cards, Cards International, April 2, 2004. These are the type of predatory practices that GE has exported to various markets, and now seeks to export to Turkey (through Garanti Bank, of which GE proposes to buy 25.5% from the Dogus Group, a conglomerate owned by the Sahenk family), the Philippines and soon China - more on that anon.
October 3, 2005
Finally, an answer from HSBC, and a telling one. More than a month ago, ICP/Fair Finance Watch filed comments opposing HSBCs application to acquire another high-cost subprime lender, Metris, as reported by the UKs Observer newspaper. Last week HSBC responded. Under the heading International Operations and Ethical Business Practices, HSBC spouts generalities that dodge the issues raised in ICPs comment. HSBC writes that HSBC Group members are expected to follow all relevant local, international and industry standards in addition to our internal standards. But in the only example given, HSBC used local (Luxembourg) standards to refuse to provide information about its wiring of money related to Riggs Bank / Equatorial Guineas dictator. HSBC writes:
ICP references an investigation into certain wire transfers made through Riggs National Bank... HBUS did receive from Riggs a request under section 314(b) of the USA Patriot Act, which authorizes financial institutions in the United States to exchange account information that may be related to money-laundering offenses or terrorist financing. Such information-sharing authority is in stark contrast to federal and state privacy protections provided in the United States that generally prohibit banks from publicly releasing account-level information, except under limited circumstances. Upon receiving the request for Riggs, HBUS confirmed that the account in question had been opened by an HSBC Group affiliate in Luxembourg, and that HBUS had forwarded the funds to a United States correspondent account in the United States for its Luxembourg affiliate. HBUS also informed Riggs, pursuant to the 314(b) request, that HBUS had sent funds for another mentioned company to an HSBC Group affiliate in Cyprus. Like the United States and many other sovereign countries where HSBC Group companies operate, both Luxembourg and Cyprus maintain privacy laws that prohibit the sharing of account information with other companies, even between companies related by ownership. In this case, HSBC affiliates in Luxembourg and Cyprus -- and are neither branches nor subsidiaries of a US institution (i.e., they are not branches or subsidiaries of HBUS but share a common, foreign parent), operate under laws which forbid such sharing of customer information. Thus, if those institutions had provided information to HBUS, to any other US bank, or directly to the US Government, they would have been in violation of the laws of Luxembourg and Cyprus respectively and could have been subject to criminal and/or civil sanctions in their host countries. Section 314(b) [of] the USA Patriot Act does not override these local laws applicable to banks operating in Luxembourg and Cyprus.
A final sentence: The MLAT process was not used in the case involving the Riggs accounts noted by ICP. Developing..
September 26, 2005
An Indonesian court last week rejected arguments by Newmont Mining Corp. and its top executive that charges of contaminating Buyat Bay on Sulawesi Island, sickening villagers and contaminating fish, should be dropped. And so, the trial will proceed next month. Richard Ness, the president of Newmont's Indonesian subsidiary, faces up to 10 years in prison and a $68,000 fine if convicted. The industry and its analysts are unhappy, according to AFP. "From an industry perspective, it's disappointing to see the matter still going on without resolution," said Marc Upcroft, who analyzes the Indonesia mining sector for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Australia. "It really is continuing to have an impact on mineral investment spending in Indonesia, which is unfortunate since we're in the middle global minerals boom." "Based on today's ruling, the president director of every company in Indonesia should be concerned by the decision," the company said in a statement. Yep...
September 19, 2005
Remember Citigroups loud claims to have become environmental? Well, last week it was reported that Citigroup will arrange a $10 billion loan to OAO Gazprom to finance the state-owned gas producer's purchase of a controlling stake in OAO Sibneft. Citigroup spokeswoman Lindsey Deans in London declined to comment. Typical... Meanwhile, Citi is expanding into Kuwait. The Central Bank of Kuwait's board "initially approved the licensing of the New York-based Citibank to open a branch in Kuwait," CBK Governor Sheikh Salem Abdulaziz al-Sabah announced last week. All we can say is watch your bond market -- and your consumers.
On September 13, Bank Hapoalim announced a proposal to acquire a controlling interest in Turkey's C Kredi ve Kalkinma Bankasi AS for $113 million...
September 12, 2005
In the week before the United Nations World Summit, more than 1,150 non-governmental organizations met at the acronym-heavy DPI/NGO Conference. The director of ICP/Fair Finance Watch, attending the conference, marveled at the view of Queens out over the East River, and the surprisingly good 60 cent coffee from a machine in the U.N. basement. Following speeches by Shashi Tharoor, Jean Ping and Jan Egeland, an NGO panel on partnerships was held. At the last minute, it was announced that there were no translators available, so the panel spoke in English to an overflow crowd. Ziad Abdel Samad of the Arab NGO Network for Development spoke of the war in Iraq. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz of the Philippines spoke of injustice more generally, particularly against indigenous people. Questions were allowed, but only if pre-screened: they could be written on cards and might or might not be read out. Thus is civil society listened to. The corporations in the Global Compact, on the other hand, are not edited... -by staff reporter Matthew Lee
September 5, 2005
Last week the Korea Times reported that HSBC is set to check the market conditions here for its business expansion by dispatching a group of senior officials to South Korea in September. About 20 officials from the HSBC headquarters in London plan to hold an executives meeting in Seoul during the last week of September. It will be the first time for the HSBC to hold an annual executives meeting in Korea. What comes next -- bringing Household Internationals predatory lending model to Korea?
August 29, 2005
Banco Santander, which bobbed and weaved and denied earlier in the inquiry into Pinochets finances, has now quietly returned some -- we emphasize some -- of its ill-gotten deposits to Chile. Intrepid journalists at Money Laundering Alert have reported that Banco Santander International had placed $1 million from an account linked to Pinochet in trust for the benefit of the government of Chile. The account was in the name of Eastview Finance, a British Virgin Island offshore company established for the benefit of Pinochet by Oscar Aitken, a lawyer and confidante of the former strongman. Santander inherited two Eastview accounts from Coutts & Co. when it purchased the Coutts Miami private banking portfolio in July 2003. For more on human rights-relevant money laundering, see ICP's Fair Finance Watch report.
August 22, 2005
In further corporate globalization, Societe Generale has just bought 69.7% of shares in Misr International Bank, giving it overall control of one of Egypt's big four banks. SocGen beat out BNP Paribas in a deal valuing MIBank at $420 million...
August 15, 2005
On August 13, ICP/Fair Finance Watch submitted a timely comment opposing BNP Paribas' application to the FDIC to acquire Commercial Federal. On issues relevent here, ICP noted that BNP's involvement in the now-widening Iraq Oil-for-Food scandal is not "blowing over" -- see, e.g., French Bank Admits Oil-for-food 'irregularities' But Fraud Link --
"The French bank BNP-Paribas on Thursday admitted that there had been some irregularities in payments it processed for the scandal-tainted UN oil-for-food program in Iraq but insisted it was not linked to any diversion of funds. The bank revealed the problems in a statement as top officials appeared before a US Congress hearing on the scandal. 'It appears from an extensive, ongoing review being conducted by the bank, that a small fraction of payments under the program were made to persons other than letter of credit beneficiaries orbanks making them direct loans,' the French bank said in a statement. 'However, based upon our review to date, the overwhelming number of payments were made to beneficiaries and their banks,' it added." (Liquid Africa, April 28, 2005)
And see, BNP May Have Violated UN Oil-For-Food Rules, DOW
JONES NEWSWIRES, April 28, 2005... Also, South Korea's financial regulator, the Financial
Supervisory Commission, last month penalized the Seoul office "over inadequately
advising state-run companies over the risks involved in derivatives trading. (Associated
Press, July 22, 2005). Indicative of BNP Paribas' lack of standards with regards to
human rights, anti-money laundering and the environment, see, e.g., Africa Energy
Intelligence of October 15, 2003: "Equatorial Guinea's government is set to shortly
announce the results of an invitation to banks to bid for a contract to provide funding to
pay for Malabo's share in Marathon's project to build a LNG plant on Elba Island. All of
the banks responding to the call - including BNP-Paribas." For the record, the
Equatorial Guinea accounts played a large role in the collapse and sale of Riggs Bank...
August 8, 2005
Buying while getting indicted General Electric on August 2 announced a proposal to buy a 43 percent stake in the credit card arm of South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. for $390 million. Meanwhile in Peru, 23 current and former GE employees, including Jack Welch, have been indicted.... For or with more information, contact us.
August 1, 2005
From a complaint against Citigroup from an employee in Europe, the other details of which remain confidential for now at his request: In case this is not yet known in the U.S., a trick that is being used in Europe (especially Germany) by Citibank in Consumer Finance is the Top Up -- Citi offers a loan to someone, then after a few months of repayments, Citi proposes (youre a good customer) an increase in the loan amount, which is processed through an early repayment and a new loan. What Citi doesnt tell the customer is that the T&C include the payment of a penalty in case of early repayment, penalty that is charged and paid with the new loan, which makes it invisible to the customer but juicy for the bank. Sounds like Citigroup...
July 25, 2005
A response has been received from Panamas Superintendent of Banks Delia Cárdenas, regarding the proposed shares acquisition of BAC Credomatic Holding Co. Ltd and Vintage Properties Limited toward GE Consumer Financial Central Holding Corp... On this matter, we communicate to Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch that this Superintendency of Bank is assessing your opposition. Well alright...
July 18, 2005
More on the irony noted last week, fact being more pro-corporate than fiction: a week after the July 7 bombings in London, the UK FSA announced that it is loosening anti-money laundering rules. The banks had asked for it, in the poll reported on last week and otherwise. But how could the FSA give in, at this time? Then again, its the same FSA which let Citigroup off the hook on the Doctor Evil trade, and which for now denies access to any and all records under the Freedom of Information Act 2000...
July 11, 2005
What timing -- last month, the Corporation of London and the Institute of Chartered
Accountants in England and Wales released a survey in which bankers complained about the
burden of anti-money laundering compliance in the United Kingdon. The study, entitled The Anti-Money
Laundering Requirements: Costs, Benefits, and Perception, and reported on July 4 in
the publication Money
Laundering Alert, reported that among UK bankers, 43 percent said they felt AML
requirements... were too severe in comparison to the perceived risks. And now?
-by staff reporter Matthew Lee
-by staff reporter Matthew Lee
July 5, 2005
On July 4, ICP Fair Finance Watch filed comments with regulators in Central America on General Electrics proposal to buy control of BAC International Bank and export its (subprime) consumer finance to six more countries:
On behalf of the non-profit / NGO Inner City Press / Fair Finance Watch (ICP), this concerns the proposal by General Electric Consumer Finance, announced on May 12, 2005, to acquire BAC International and its operations in your country. We are requesting a copy of GEs application to your agency for regulatory approval. This letter should be considered an interim comment in opposition to GEs applications. As set forth below, GE Consumer Finance is a high-cost lender which seeks to evade regulatory scrutiny. See, e.g, www.iinews.com/site/pdfs/IIMag_GEConsumerFinance_Nov_2004.pdf , including ICPs analysis of GE Consumer Finances export of predatory lending. GEs affiliates are, among other things, military contractors, and have for example been named one of the twelve worst polluters in New York State. Its performance with Enron on the Dabhol project in India is shameful, as well. It is imperative that your agency consider these issues, particularly the sample of GEs WMC Mortgage Companys lending, targeting high cost loans at Latinos, set forth below.
ICP specifically requests, including under the human rights laws cited below, that these issues be considered in connection with the regulatory approval GE would require, as acknowledged in its May 12, 2005, press release, which
announced that it would acquire a 49.99 percent stake in BAC International Bank Inc. (BAC), a privately held retail bank and credit card issuer based in Panama City, Panama. The transaction, which requires regulatory approvals, is expected to close in the next few months. The terms were not disclosed. BAC is one of the largest banks in Central America and has been operating in the region for over 50 years. BAC has 178 branches in countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. The new partnership between GE Consumer Finance and BAC will enable the two companies to deliver enhanced consumer credit products to the growing Central American financial services market.
ICP has obtained the 2004 U.S. mortgage lending data of GEs subprime / high cost mortgage lender, WMC. The National Mortgage News of April 26, 2004, reported that GE has agreed to buy WMC Mortgage... the nation's 12th largest subprime funder... According to figures compiled by NMN, WMC originated $8.1 billion last year... In a statement, Mark W. Begor, president of GE Consumer Finance-Americas, said, We are thrilled to have the WMC team, headed by Amy Brandt, join GE Consumer Finance. But what is GE thrilled with, and what would it be exporting? In 2004 to borrowers identified as Hispanic and African-American, over 65% of GEs WMCs loans were high cost / rate spread, defined by the U.S. Federal Reserve Board as over three percentage points over comparable Treasury Securities on first liens, 5% on subordinate liens. To non-Hispanic whites, the percentage was below 53%. This compares unfavorably with GE WMCs peers, and is indicative of GE Consumer Finances targeting of Latinos for higher than normal interest rate credit.
GEs predatory lending is not limited to the United States. See, e.g., Office of Fair Trading Delivers Damning Verdict on Store Cards, Cards International, April 2, 2004. GE is under fire not only for high cost credit cards, but also mortgages. See, e.g., Mortgage Giants Faces Court Over Unfair Loans, Sunday Express, May 12, 2002:
A support group set up by an ex-teacher is taking one of the world's largest financial companies to court in a case that could save millions for thousands of mortgage borrowers. The National Association of Mortgage Victims (NAMV) will next month ask a court to set a date to hear test cases against US firm Ocwen and international giant GE Capital... the terms of its loans are unfair. Its mortgage interest rates can be doubled if borrowers are late with payments, for whatever reason. High early redemption penalties are also payable.
These are the type of predatory practices that GE has exported to various markets, and now seeks to export to your country. ICP has received numerous complaints about GE, including about its credit cards. Simply as one example:
Subj: GE Card.
Date: 9/24/03 5:25:17 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: [Name available on request]
To: GE-Watch [at] fairfinancewatch.org
I just got burned on their overly complicated "deferred interest" scam. We
used this GE promotional card (recommended by my dentist) to get $5000 amount of dental work done on my wife. To make a long story short, the interest was "deferred" for a year. I worked diligently to get the balance down to $1740 at the year end and my next bill had a $980 "deferred interest" charges (at 21.98%). The whole thing sounds crooked to me. I think a Mafia loan shark would have been more straight forward about the deal...
See also, GE on pollution list, Poughkeepsie Journal, June 30, 2005: General Electric was designated for failing to clean up the 150,000 pounds of PCBs its plant in Fort Edward, Washington County, dumped into the Hudson River, said Rich Schiafo, of Scenic Hudson. GE continues to drag their feet despite the EPA's decision that they clean up the Hudson.
You should request information from General Electric; ICP is requesting a copy of all such correspondence, and is requesting a copy of GEs applications, and public hearings.
June 27, 2005
Annals of globalization: as reported in the
Moscow newspaper Vedomosti, Sanford Weill, CEO of Citigroup, will lead the Americans
who are meeting with Putin. At the meeting with the president on February 11 Weill offered
to organize a visit of a delegation of US business executives and Putin
supported this idea, says a member of the presidential administration. Susan Tether, a
spokeswoman for Citigroup Europe, confirmed that Weill will come to Russia together with
several clients of the bank to take part "in several meetings," but refused to
reveal the details. Alcoa CEO Alain Belda will visit Putin as a member of Citigroup's board of directors, a
company employee explained... Alcoa has purchased two aluminum-rolling enterprises from
RusAl for $300 million. Equator
June 20, 2005
The Bronx Fordham University was venue last week of UNDPs
Community Commons meeting, held under a large white tent replete with
simultaneous translation, wireless microphones, glossy flyers of the German development
bank and pointed questions from the participants to the representatives of the World Bank
and UNDP. The assistant administrator of the latter, Shoji Nishimoto, concluded the June
17 session by encouraging the non-government organizations in attendance to focus on
results, on quantifying their impact. Dont
tell me how many lawyers you have, or what accountants, he said. Tell me about impact. How many people with
HIV did you save? How many people did you re-integrate into society even though they are
carriers? Shoji Nishimoto was previously with the Asian Development Bank. The
meeting was in preparation for Civil Society hearings, and Septembers follow-up on
the Millennium Development Goals. In the tent, banner flapped with the words Vilaj and
Kampung. There were nearly as many photographers as participants. The weather was cool and
they ran out of coffee cups. The participants were New Age trim like their laptops. This
is the future...
June 13, 2005
We turn this week to Congress, where a new low has been reached. At the June 10 hearing by the House Judiciary Committee on the USA Patriot Act, Chairman James Sensenbrenner repeatedly cut off the answers of the witnesses, including immigration lawyer Carlina Tapia-Ruano. His logic, such as it was, was only articulated as he departed the room clutching his gavel. His claim is that detentions, whether in the U.S. or in Bagram or Gitmo, along with human rights more generally, are not within the jurisdiction of his committee. The documented beating to death of detainees in Bagram was scoffed off; the microphones were turned off leading one wag to propose that Congress members henceforth arrive at Sensenbrenners hearings with their own bullhorns, just in case...
June 6, 2005
Deutsche Banks response to issues ICP raised to the United Nations Global Compact, including Deutsche Banks unseemly role as the main banker for the dictator of Turkmenistan (who had renamed the months in that country for his mother, and forces all resident to read his book Ruhnama), consists of a half-page about sustainability criterias [sic], ISO 14001 and the repetition of Breuers statements about DBs business in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. We can only ask -- why not Belarus?
HSBCs standardless business in rogue nations was profiled last week by Bloomberg News Vernon Silver, including these sample squibs:
From their offices atop Tehran's
15-story Sayeh Tower, HSBC Holdings Plc bankers have helped lend more than $825 million to
the Iranian government... HSBC, Europe's biggest bank by market value, says it isn't
breaking the law and is merely trying to make money. ``The job of HSBC Bank Middle East is
to take advantage of business opportunities in the region,'' says Steve Martin, a
spokesman in Dubai for HSBC's Middle Eastern unit... HSBC does additional Syrian business
through London-based British Arab Commercial Bank Ltd. HSBC owns 46.5 percent of the bank,
whose chief executive officer is an HSBC employee on loan. HSBC holds five of the 11 board
Other shareholders of British Arab Commercial Bank, known as BACB, are the Libyan government's Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, with 25 percent, and Iraq's state-owned Rafidain Bank, with 4.91 percent. Libyan and Iraqi representatives sit on BACB's board alongside HSBC bankers. During Saddam Hussein's rule, an Iraqi representative traveled from Baghdad to London for some board meetings, according to BACB.
BACB is a corner of the HSBC empire that specializes in doing business legally with countries that have been marginalized by sanctions, BACB General Manager and Deputy Chief Executive Mohamed Fezzani says... BACB's Web site calls these ``niche markets,'' listing Iran, Libya, Sudan and Syria along with other countries that aren't on the U.S. terror list, such as Algeria and Morocco.
Leaflets promoting BACB's activities in Syria and Libya are displayed in the lobby of its London headquarters on Mansion House Place, a six-story modern cement building decorated with stripes of brick, nestled behind the 250-year-old official residence of the lord mayor of London. HSBC does its Sudan business through BACB, Martin says.
And the article didnt even mention HSBC refusing to tell money laundering Riggs Bank who owned the account(s) into which the Equatorial Guinea funds were funneled...
May 31, 2005
Amid international criticism for the violent suppression of the uprising in
Andizhan earlier this month, Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov arrived on last week on
a three-day state visit to China. In Beijing on May 24, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman
Kong Quan said, "We firmly support the efforts by the authorities of Uzbekistan to
strike down the three forces of terrorism,
separatism and extremism. The reference, it seems, was to the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Province...
The Inner City Press / Human Rights Enforcement project has received a Freedom of Information Act denial in full by the Central Intelligence Agency, regarding the CIAs role in lifting the arms embargo on the government of Rwanda. Purportedly, not a single document can be released without compromising U.S. national security...
May 23, 2005
Fair Finance Watch has received HSBC's (apparently interim) response to issues FFW has raised to the United Nations Global Compact:
From: ivorgodfrey-davies [at] hsbc.com
16/05/2005 10:12 AM
Subject: Memo: Re: Re HSBC, Grupo Santander, Riggs/PNC and others
Dear Ms Wynhoven
Thank you for your email message of 25 February about a communication received from... Fair Finance Watch. We appreciate your bringing [FFW]'s issues to our attention as it provides us with the opportunity to confirm for ourselves our compliance with the principles we have established for the HSBC organisation. Please be assured that we will undertake the appropriate investigation of the matters raised in [FFW]'s communication.
HSBC has operated pursuant to the highest ethical standards throughout its history and has always attached the utmost importance to honesty, integrity and a strong sense of responsibility in all our dealings. We respect fully the ten principles of the Global Compact and we look forward to participating in the future development of this initiative.
Head of Group Corporate Relations
HSBC Holdings plc
Registered Office: 8 Canada Square, London E14 5HQ, United Kingdom
Registered Number 617987
Hmm.... For or with more information, contact us.
May 16, 2005
Since January, legislation has been introduced in seven U.S. states -- from Texas
to New Jersey -- calling on public pension funds to shed billions in Sudan-related
investments. The California Assembly has passed a nonbinding measure. Six other states are
considering similar divestment bills. A proponent of divestiture notes that
"PetroChina, Siemens and other companies are being set up for a huge equity market
fall. Heres hoping...
May 9, 2005
Interim update from Togo: The vacuum left by a steady decline in Togo's economy has been filled by an increasingly criminalized informal sector. Illegal weapons, drugs, human trafficking, money laundering and smuggled used cars form a significant part of the country's trade, especially since the European Union suspended aid in 1993 in protest at Eyadema pere's poor human rights record. The country fell into chaos when President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years, died in February and his son Faure Gnassingbe was installed as president by the army in violation of the constitution. Forced to step down under international pressure, Faure at the end of April won elections the opposition parties said were stolen. Mass protests ensued, but the security forces crushed the insurrection. Several people were killed and scores injured. A United Nations report in 2000 named Togo as a key entrepot for weapons supplied to Angolan rebels in the late 1990s. Regional analysts say Togo is still a warehouse for weapons smuggled to and from other neighboring countries...
May 2, 2005
In the wake of the Federal Reserves rubber-stamp approval of PNC-Riggs (see midweek FFW Finance Watch Report), FFW received by regular mail the 17-page approval of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Heres a paragraph of interest:
The commenter raised concerns with Riggs Banks service as a correspondent baqnk with, among others, Bank of Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone Commercial Bank Ltd; Energobank of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan; Banco de Cabo Verde; and Banco International SA... Riggs maintained correspondent relationships with each of these banks, except Banco de Cabo Verde; however, two of these four correspondent relationships closed two years ago, and the remaining two closed recently.
The vague reference to recently closed correspondent relationships is why FFW maintains that Riggs is a crime scene, that shouldnt be sold off and swept under the carpet... Ah, Monoco, land both of casinos and money laundering and now a new Prince, Albert. Monaco has a zero percent income tax policy for residents after five years, although French nationals do not qualify, in order to keep Paris happy about having an offshore centre right on its doorstep. Nevertheless, Monaco has been repeatedly and properly criticized for accommodating money laundering . In 2000, the French parliament issued a report detailing tax evasion and money laundering. Will it get cleaned up now? Well see.
April 25, 2005
Oil and human rights: events in Darfur are likely to disrupt exploration work by its ABCO corporation (which is 37% owned by Swiss-based Cliveden). Two of the major rebel groups in the region, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Movement have called for a cessation of exploration drilling. The Total-led consortium operating Block B in Southern Sudan is still trying to resolve a dispute over acreage with White Nile Petroleum. Meanwhile Belgium is to reopen an investigation into Total's involvement in alleged human rights abuses in the 1990s against Burmese citizens working on the $1.2 billion Yadana gas project in southern Myanmar. The probe was first opened in 2002 after a lawsuit was filed by four Burmese villagers accusing Total of ignoring human rights abuses during construction of the Yadana pipeline. They claimed they were enslaved by Myanmar's military -- which guarded the project from 1993 until its completion in 1998 -- and forced to build the pipeline. The inquiry was later suspended, pending a court ruling on whether political refugees in Belgium have the same rights as Belgian citizens to exercise its human rights law. The constitutional court recently granted one of the plaintiffs, who has lived in Belgium for three years, the right to press ahead with the claim. Total faces legal action over a similar lawsuit in France.
Updating the below (April 11 and other Reports), see, e.g., HSBC predatory
in U.S. lending, by Conal Walsh, The Observer (UK), April 24, 2005 .
April 18, 2005
On April 15, the Swiss government announced that Aba Abacha, a son of late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, has been extradited to Switzerland by Germany to answer money laundering charges. The Justice Ministry in Bern said Abacha was handed over at the border town of Loerrach on April 14 and taken to Geneva. Abacha was arrested in Neuss, Germany on December 9, 2004 under an international warrant. Switzerland filed for his extradition on January 9 this year. He was being sought on a number of allegations including money laundering, fraud and embezzlement. Then of course there are the human rights abuses...
April 11, 2005
On the human rights beat this week, we have this update from the staff of the United Nations Global Compact:
Date: 4/5/2005 5:46:37 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: [Global Compact staff at] un.org
To: HRE [at] fairfinancewatch.org
I am writing to let you know that Deutsche Bank and HSBC have both acknowledged receipt of my e-mail to them forwarding the issues that you raised and indicated that they would research the issue and provide a reply. I have not yet heard from Grupo Santander, but have sent them a reminder.
Fair Finance Watch / Human Rights Enforcement project has provided the following update:
HSBC last week, after complaints, provided ICP Fair Finance Watch with its 2004 mortgage lending data. Analysis to date, using the SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) program reveals that within HSBC in the United States in 2004, African Americans were 5.42 times more likely than whites to be processed through HSBCs higher cost subprime units. While HSBCs higher-cost subprime units (the former Household International) make 4.3 loans to whites for each loan to an African American, HSBCs prime units make over 23 loans to whites to each loan to an African American.
Of the higher cost rate spread loans made by HSBC Bank USA, African Americans are 6.46 times more likely to get such loans than whites; Hispanics are 6.5 times more likely to get rate spread loans from HSBC Bank than are whites. Meanwhile, HSBC Mortgage denies the applications of African Americans 2.53 times more frequently than whites.
Combining HSBCs prime and subprime units, over 32 percent of HSBCs mortgage are higher cost, subject to a rate spread. This is inconsistent with HSBCs claims, at the time it acquired Household International and since, that only a small part of its mortgage loans are subprime. Sir John Bond said that 63% of Households loans were prime, at HSBCs shareholders meeting on March 28, 2003, at which the Household acquisition was voted on.
Beyond the substance of this update, as it relates to the principles committed to in the Global Compact, it should be noted that transparency about these issues is the first step to substantive compliance. We continue to await the banks responses.
April 4, 2005
On March 29, U.S. District Judge Ricardo Urbina accepted the plea agreement between the Justice Department and Riggs; he ordered Riggs to pay the $16 million penalty immediately. "There is no way of measuring the amount of harm and atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated by Pinochet and Equatorial Guinea as a result of the enabling criminal activity by Riggs Bank," Urbina said. But then how do you know that $16 million is enough? Particularly after the Senates Second Riggs-Pinochet report released in mid-March (after the DOJ-Riggs plea agreement), and in light of Riggs total impunity for harms it aided and abetted in Equatorial Guinea?
PNCs lawyers from Wachtell Lipton last week wrote to the Federal Reserve, providing a requested update on Riggs material litigation. These include cases overseen by Judge Garzon in Spain, the Allison Vadhan / 9-11 case, and a RICO case about Riggs allegedly deficient anti-money laundering program. Allegedly?
Inner City Press has now reviewed the 2004 lending of controversy-plagued Riggs Bank, N.A., and has now commented to the three regulatory agencies considering PNCs take-over proposal that Riggs in 2004 denied the applications of African Americans 7.52 times more frequently than those of whites (while denying the applications of Hispanics 4.81 times more frequently than whites). Beyond its money-laundering for Augusto Pinochet and the dictator of Equatorial Guinea, this striking under-service to communities of color in and around the District of Columbia militates for the public hearings Fair Finance Watch has requested on PNC-Riggs.
March 28, 2005
Lost in the muddled news from Bishkek was the question of who did Akayevs banking, and where the money (as well as Akayev) took off to. Click here for Fair Finance Watchs beginning report on the Kyrgyz banking system. In Central Asia, its anything goes: last week a Japanese banking expert spoke blithely in Uzbekistan, despite the human rights issues (including the boiling alive of political opponents).
Meanwhile, were compelled to compare the HBO film Sometimes in
April with Hotel Rwanda. The latter glossed over much of Rwandese
history, and also the scope of the killings in 1994. Sometimes
in April, to the contrary, begins with words scrolling on the screen, describing how
the Belgians formalized the Tutsis to rule over the Hutus, the pulled a switch at the time
of independence. The HBO movie, which was first shown last week, depict Habyarimanas
plane being shot down, and then the road blocks, the evacuation only of Europeans and
Americans, the killing of the Belgian U.N. soldiers. The tribunal in Arusha is depicted;
the irony of the accused getting AZT while women they raped die of HIV in Kigali. The use of a drug lord from the HBO series
The Wire as a moderate Hutu was sometimes disorienting. But this is a film
more about the history than precious, award-directed performances. Deborah Winger (now, we
know where she is) has a supporting role in the U.S. State Department. Throughout, the history is not subordinated to the
actors or performances -- which feels rights, given the extent of the killing.
March 21, 2005
The U.S. Senates report last week on Pinochets funds identifies accounts at Citigroup, Bank of America, Banco de Chile-United States, Ocean Bank, PineBank, Banco Atlantico (now Banco de Sabadell), Espirito Santo Bank in Miami (which has a Credit Agricole connection), and Coutts & Co. (USA) International while it was owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (its now owned by Santander).
Regarding Citigroup, the Senate states that its investigation has determined that Citigroup had a substantial, years long relationship with Augusto Pinochet and his family"... Only in "response to Subcommittee requests, Citigroup has identified 63 U.S. accounts and certificates of deposit that were opened for Mr. Pinochet and his family in New York and Miami at various points in time from 1981 to 2004... It was not until July 2004, two years later, that Citigroup first alerted the OCC to its years-long relationship with the Pinochet family. The report at page 82 deadpans that Citigroup declined to provide any information in response to Riggs Section 314(b) requests. When the Subcommittee asked why, Citigroup pointed out that, at the time the requests were made, Riggs was under civil and criminal investigations raising questions about the banks management and operations." That's ironic -- because under that standard, no one should answer Citigroup's questions either... The report refers (too) obliquely, at footnote 132, to HSBCs and Santanders refusal to identify who owned the accounts into which Riggs Bank wired money. And from the U.N. Global Compact, regarding the questions the Compact has asked HSBC and Santander about this and other matters? No substantive response as yet...
March 14, 2005
From the Marcy 9 U.N. press conference of the Office of Spokesman for the Secretary-General:
the United Nations Global Compact began its first major regional meeting in South Asia today in India. The two-day Global Compact Regional Conclave in South Asia brings together more than 200 senior representatives of companies, civil society and the United Nations from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Secretary-General, in a message welcomed the meeting as a strong expression of support for the Global Compact, a voluntary corporate citizenship initiative based on universal values in human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. He says the meeting is also a contribution to the wider process of change and renewal at the United Nations. We have copies of that message upstairs.
That message said that responsible corporate citizenship has become the management philosophy of a growing number of enterprises, large and small. They have found that such an approach, emphasizing transparency, a focus on stakeholders and the well-being of a company's own workers, helps to drive long-term success. I would like to thank you for your commitment to the Compact, your openness to new forms of public-private cooperation, and your efforts to bring the Compact's principles to life in South Asia and around the world. This meeting is also a contribution to the wider process of change and renewal at the United Nations, which will culminate in a Summit meeting at United Nations Headquarters in New York in September.
Meanwhile, under the Global Compacts procedures, three banks have been asked by the Compact to respond to formal complaints. Presumably their responses will soon arrive; theyll be reported here.
In impunity news, Riggs Banks Robert L. Allbritton, weeks after grudgingly tossing $1 million to the many victims of Augusto Pinochet (whose money Riggs laundered), cashed in stock options for a profit of $5.8 million. Theres still been no restitution for Riggs Banks much larger dealings for Equatorial Guineas Obiang (including the reported pilfering of at least $35 million). Riggs, following Allbrittons resignation, rushed to appoint Tony Terracciano, previously of First Fidelity / First Union, so someone can sign the SEC filings under Sarbanes-Oxley on March 15...
From the Cyprus News Agency in Nicosia last week: Government spokesman Kipros Khrisostomidhis has noted... the casino operating in the Turkish-occupied north, the banking system and the financial institutions are actual bodies where money-laundering can be promoted... The US report said ... that although casinos, Internet gaming sites, and bearer shares are not permitted in the government-controlled area of Cyprus, the areas under Turkish occupation present a different picture, with 22 essentially unregulated, and primarily Turkish-mainland owned, casinos being the primary vehicles through which money laundering occurs.
And which is the global bank which operates in North Cyprus? None other than HSBC. One wag noted: How transparent...
March 7, 2005
The U.S. State Department 2004 Human Rights Report issued last week admits that the regime in Equatorial Guinea of Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo severely restricted freedom of speech and of the press. The Government continued to restrict the rights of assembly and association and limit freedom of movement. Corruption remained a problem. There were no effective domestic human rights nongovernmental organizations... By law, arrests do not require warrants... The lack of a published penal code allows for frequent abuses by security forces.
The report does not mention Riggs Bank or the Senates 2004 investigation, which shows much more extensive engagement by Riggs with Obiang ($700 million) than Pinochet, and leaves open important Equatoguinean questions with regard to Grupo Santander and HSBC...
Of Turkmenistan, the report says that the regime
of President-for-life Saparmurat Niyazov... censored newspapers; approval from the
Office of the President's Press Secretary was required for prepublication galleys. There
were 22 newspapers published in Turkmen and only 1 official newspaper in Russian; the only
major daily newspaper was printed in Turkmen and Russian. The major stories were identical
in both papers while advertising and some content varied. Foreign newspapers, including
Russian-language publications, from abroad were banned. To regulate domestic printing and
copying activities, the Government required all publishing houses and printing and copying
establishments to obtain registration licenses for their equipment. The Government
required the registration of all photocopiers and mandated that a single individual be
responsible for all photocopying activity... Prisoners amnestied in 2003 swore an oath of
allegiance to the "Rukhnama," President Niyazov's 2001 spiritual guidebook on
the country's culture and heritage (see Section 2.c.). Prisoners who refused to swear this
oath were beaten. Regarding Rukhnama (a/k/a Ruhnama), companies doing business with
Niyazov pay to have the tome translated. As previously reported by Inner City Press and Fair Finance Watch ,
Deutsche Bank handles and profits
from Niyazovs money...
, Deutsche Bank handles and profits from Niyazovs money...
February 28, 2005
On the same day that Riggs announced it will pay $9 million to a fund for
Pinochets thousands of victims, it was also disclosed that the managers of Riggs,
including the Allbrittons, stand to get golden parachutes well over $9 million (up to
$15.4 million, its reported). The Allbritons, of course, stand to get over $250
million on the sale. Comparing these numbers shows the place of human rights in
todays field of banking, at least at PNC: an afterthought. And what of the much larger sums Riggs helped loot
from Equatorial Guinea? These are described in the Senate report and Riggs plea.
What of Obiangs victims? This shows the place of Africa to Riggs and PNC: less than
an afterthought. ICP/Fair Finance Watch will
be notching up its opposition.
February 21, 2005
What follows is a portion of the letter that ICP Fair Finance Watch / Human Rights Enforcement project filed last week with the U.S. Export Import Bank, concerning the coup in Togo, and situation in Equatorial Guinea:
Dear Messrs. Merrill and Saba, and members of the Board and Committee:
On behalf of the Fair Finance Watch / Human Rights Enforcement project (FFW), this submission in advance of the Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee meeting of February 16, as invited by the Federal Register notice of January 27, 2005, focuses on two countries in Sub-Saharan Africa: Togo and Equatorial Guinea. Togo is in the midst of a military coup. Regarding Equatorial Guinea, the recent guilty plea of DC-based Riggs Bank and the underlying facts should be taken into account.
12 U.S.C. § 635(b)(1)(B) provides for the Export-Import Bank and its Board (and presumably Committees) to consider human rights (such as are provided in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948). As you should be aware, following the death on February 5 of Togos long-time dictator Gnassingbe Eyadema, the Togolese military unilaterally brought to power his son, Faure Gnassingbe. For the record, in a statement issued afterwards, the Togolese Human Rights League (LTDH) denounced these "egregious and successive violations of the constitution. We note that the Federal Register of January 27, 2005, provided that the last 10 minutes will be set aside for oral questions or comments. Members of the public may also file written statement(s) before or after the meeting. FFW, based in New York, is not able to attend the meeting, but asks that this be presented, in hard-copy and, if possible, orally in the final ten minute period.
FFW has been working on issues relating to Equatorial Guinea, including as relates to DC-based Riggs Banks money laundering for that countrys dictator, Teodoro Obiang Nguema. In terms of human rights and press freedoms, Obiang threatened journalists in Equatorial Guinea when media carried news of the Senate report on the Riggs scandal. See, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3911855.stm>. As regards freedom of conscience, Obiang had previously jailed political opponents for insulting him on the Internet. See, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2164050.stm>. See also the more detailed report of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations Report, online at <www.senate.gov/~govt-aff/_files/071504miniorityreport_moneylaundering.pdf>.
Troublingly, the publication Energy Compass of November 20, 2003,
reported: Reports spark embarrassment in Equatorial Guinea
Equatorial Guinea's government had an embarrassing week, after two influential television programs took the ruling family to task for misusing oil revenues. On Nov. 18, US network CBS's 60 Minutes alleged that President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his family were the primary recipients of proceeds from oil and gas output. It also highlighted the regime's human rights abuses, and revealed that a former US ambassador had received death threats for reporting a torturer to the US State Department. The UK's Channel Four news aired another highly unflattering report later in the week...
The alleged breaches do not appear to worry the US, which is keen to strengthen trade ties with Equatorial Guinea, where American firms Exxon Mobil, Amerada Hess, and Marathonall have large investments. Says Joseph Grandmaison, director of the US Export-Import Bank (Eximbank), "Equatorial Guinea is for us a priority country." (emphasis added).
Given Obiangs record of human rights abuses, the Ex-Im Banks directors statement is disconcerting, and contrary to recent statements about freedom on the march. Here for the record from another recent report on the context of Equatorial Guinea... Tropical Gangsters by Robert Klitgaard, an economist who worked in Malabo during the late 1980s. The book ends with Klitgaard protesting the torture of a local colleague who was taken to the presidential compound above Malabos harbor, blindfolded, and had his hands tied behind his back. He was then hung by his ankles -- as Klitgaard writes, like a marlin at the weight scale -- and lowered into a barrel of soapy water and kept there until he choked. He was pulled out, questioned, and submerged again. This went on for several hours.
In terms of financial transparency, as recited in the Statement of Offense recently agreed to by Riggs as part of a proposed plea bargain announced on January 27, 2005
From in or about 1996 to in or about 2004, Riggs Bank maintained numerous accounts for EG. Over the course of this period, Riggs Bank opened over 30 accounts for the EG government, numerous EG senior government officials, and their family members. Riggs Bank opened multiple personal accounts for the EG president and his relatives and assisted in establishing offshore shell corporations for the EG president and his sons (collectively, the EG Accounts). By 2003, the EG accounts had become Riggs Banks largest single relationship with balances and outstanding loans that totaled nearly $700 million... In September 1999, Riggs Bank assisted the EG President Obiang in the establishment of Otong S.A., an offshore shell corporation, incorporated in the Bahamas, and held a money market account for the corporation. Otong was a Private Investment Company... These transactions were suspicious because of the cash nature of the deposits, because of the lack of understanding as to the source or destination of the money, and because the transactions were not the sort in which the particular customer would normally be expected to engage. 22. Additionally, Riggs Bank filed inaccurate CTRs on these cash deposits. The CTRs listed the Otong account as an exporter of timber, rather than a PIC controlled by the EG president. Certain Riggs Bank employee(s) knew this representation to be inaccurate. 23. From June 2000 to December 2003, 16 separate wire transfers, totaling approximately $26.4 million, were sent from an EG oil account at Riggs Bank, which held oil royalty payments to the government of EG, to an account in the name of Kalunga Company, S.A. at Banco Santander in Madrid, Spain.
FFW has previously asked the U.S. Federal Reserve (and certain other agencies, including the UK FSA and UN Global Compact) to take action on these Banco Santander and HSBC issues. See, e.g., Request for Halt to Santander Takeover, by Karl West, (Glasgow) Herald, September 23, 2004, www.theherald.co.uk/business/24582.html; New York Protest at SCH Plans, by Jane Croft, Financial Times, September 23, 2004; FSA Urged to Block Abbey Bid over Laundering Report, by Conal Walsh, The Observer, September 26, 2004, http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,1312662,00.html, and, in Spanish, Piden a las autoridades británicas que paren la OPA sobre Abbey hasta que no se aclare el papel del Santander en un caso de blanqueo de dinero, <www.elconfidencial.com/buscador/mostrar.asp?seccion=enexclusiva&id=4386>.
In its anti-terrorism mandate -- also in 12 U.S.C. § 635(b)(1)(B) -- we urge the Ex-Im Bank to consider the degree to which lack of anti-money laundering standards can enable terrorism. In terms of human rights, we urge the Ex-Im Bank to publicly qualify its directors above-quoted statement in light of Teodoro Obiang Nguemas record of human rights abuses, and to appropriately consider it all of its decision-making, as well as the ongoing military coup in Togo.
We ask to be kept informed in this regard, and stand ready to answer any questions or provide any further information.
Very Truly Yours,
Matthew Lee, Esq.
Fair Finance Watch/
Human Rights Enforcement project
February 14, 2005
On February 12 in Lome, Togo, three people protesting the ongoing coup detat were killed, and radio stations closed. Over 60 Togolese associations and trade unions have condemned the "constitutional coup" staged by the country's army last Saturday to confer power on Faure Gnassingbe, son of the late President Gnassingbe Eyadema. In a statement issued after a meeting at the headquarters of the Togolese Human Rights League (LTDH), the groups denounced the "egregious and successive violations of the constitution" and called the people to "mobilize and resist" these violations to "preserve the dignity and freedom of Togolese". Immediately after the demise of President Eyadema last Saturday, the Togolese army endorsed Gnassingbe, 39, to succeed his late father until the end of his term in 2008.
As recently as Jan. 17, 2005, the regimes web site trumpeted Togo's Eyadema celebrates 38-year rule in Lome... dubbed 'Liberation Festival,' was marked Thursday by a five-hour parade along the seaside Boulevard du Mono in Lome, the country's capital. Among the participants were soldiers from the Benin army who joined their local counterparts and Togolese civilians in the paraded witnessed by Eyadema and guests from Africa and overseas. The Ghanaian army's brass band belted out a variety of numbers, including High Life tunes. Eyadema has been ruling Togo since 13 January 1967."
So after 38 years of the father, now the succession of the son by military coup. As protests mount, heres BBCs web page of Africa News.
And heres the in-process Togo
Report of the Fair Finance Watch, noting as an outgrowth of (FFWs) Riggs Bank /
Equatorial Guinea inquiry that Legal Times of
Dec. 27, 2004, reported that "Federal prosecutors are attempting to seize property
and nearly $1 million in cash from a former Riggs Bank executive accused of embezzling
money from foreign embassy accounts he oversaw... According to the court documents, the
executive, Simon Kareri, former senior vice president of the Riggs' International Banking
Group, was fired by the bank in January 2004 after an internal investigation alleged that
he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars... Kareri had been a senior manager of Riggs'
Embassy Banking Division since January 1994 and was responsible for managing various
embassy accounts as well as the personal accounts of foreign government officials and
their families. Those accounts included the African nations of Equatorial Guinea, Benin,
Mozambique, and Togo." So those would
have been the accounts of Gnassingbe Eyadema, and quite possibly also of Faure
February 7, 2005
In Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Niyazov is the man who makes the decisions for oil and gas. He signs the E&P deals or JV agreements with foreign companies. APS Review Downstream Trends of October 4, 2004 calls his regime "the most repressive" state in Central Asia --
"The constitution says Turkmenistan is a 'secular democracy' in the form of a presidential republic. In practice, it is a Niyazovland in which policy is only what the president decides - a private estate with its income going to the "presidential fund", now worth over $ 5 bn, which is managed by Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt. Only Niyazov can use the money. Parliament is dominated by his Democratic Party of Turkmenistan, the sole political group in the country."
Excerpts from report by Turkmen TV on October 31, 2000: "Yesterday Turkmen President Saparmyrat Turkmenbashy received a member of the board of German Deutsche Bank, Tessen von Heydebreck, who is leading a visiting Deutsche Bank delegation... They talked about Turkmenistan's economic potential; von Heydebreck praised the country's economic development program."
TASS News Agency of October 30, 2000: "Investments in the oil and natural gas sector of Turkmenistan are seen as a high priority by the Deutsche Bank, its officials assured President Saparmurat Niyazov during the course of their meeting in Ashkhabad on Monday. Niyazov and Deutsche Bank board member Tessen von Heidebraek highly assessed the fulfilment of the agreement on cooperation between the German Bank and the government of Turkmenistan signed in 1996 and approved the signing of a new agreement on continued cooperation. the German Bank and the government of this Central Asian republic will sign a framework crediting agreement on the funding of the investment projects, including the supplies of equipment and provision of services."
Commenting on Deutsche Bank's presence in Central and Eastern Europe, ['DB CEO Rolf] Breuer "emphasized that its longstanding, close relationships with these countries have been important even during times when the political and economic climate has been difficult. Deutsche Bank was pleased to accept the challenge to help rebuild the economies of Central and Eastern Europe. The opening and liberalization of these markets offers further businesses in which the bank expects to see substantial growth. Deutsche Bank is currently represented through offices, branches and subsidiaries in Georgia, Kazakhstan, Croatia, Poland, Russia, Romania, the Czech Republic, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Hungary and Uzbekistan. " (Breuer Statement of September 25, 2000)
Deutsche Bank is, ironically, a member of the UN's Global Compact. Developing...
Following the announcement of its flawed plea bargain on January 27, Riggs Bank said that it and PNC would make an announcement about their stalled merger on or about February 4. That day passed with no announcement. Earlier in the week, the Federal Reserve and OCC announced cease-and-desist orders with Banco de Chile, for holding and concealing accounts for Augusto Pinochet. Also reported to have been holding Pinochet accounts are Royal Bank of Scotlands Coutts unit, and Espirito Santo, regarding which an application by Credit Agricole, on which ICP / Fair Finance Watch commented to the Federal Reserve back in 2003, is still pending... (The RBS Coutts and Espirito Santo connections were reported among other places in the newspaper Clarin). Chilean Judge Sergio Muñoz, investigating Pinochets finances, is seeking records and additional information from the governments of the United States, Switzerland, Luxembourg, United Kingdom, Bahamas, Germany, Panama, Spain and Gibraltar...
January 31, 2005
Following the January 27 announcement of a proposed plea bargain by Riggs Bank of its money laundering for Augusto Pinochet and Equatorial Guineas Teodoro Obiang, FFW / Human Rights Enforcement project made three filings, including to the United Nations Global Compact. While Riggs Bank is not a member, HSBC and Grupo Santander Central Hispano are. The underlying U.S. Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation's Report on Riggs Bank, at 55-56 of the Report, states as follows:
"On February 10, 2004, in an attempt to gather additional information, Riggs sent letters to several banks sponsoring accounts to which questionable wire transfers had been sent from the [Equatorial Guinea] E.G. oil account. These letters requested information about the accounts under Section 314(b) of the Patriot Act, which allows financial institutions to share client and transaction information to guard against money laundering and terrorist financing.... A Riggs letter to HSBC Bank USA requested information on the identity of the owners or authorized signatories for the account belonging to Kalunga. [FN 198: Letter from Riggs Bank to HSBC Bank USA (2/10/04).]
"HSCB USA... confirmed that the Apexside account had been opened by an HSCB bank in Luxembourg and that HSBC USA had forwarded the funds to a U.S. correspondent account for its Luxembourg affiliate, but declined to disclose the identity of the persons behind Apexside due to Luxembourg bank secrecy laws. HSBC USA said that the funds for the second company had been sent to an HSBC bank in Cyprus which also has bank secrecy laws. HSBC USA claimed that Luxembourg and Cyprus laws barred disclosure of client information to both third parties and HSBC's own affiliates outside of the country.
"The position taken by... HSBC USA means, in essence, that banks in the United States attempting to do due diligence on large wire transfers to protect against money laundering are unable to find out from their own foreign affiliates key account information. This bar on disclosure across international lines, even within the same financial institution, presents a significant obstacle to U.S. anti-money laundering efforts."
The U.S. Senate Report is available here in PDF; see also, FSA Urged to Block Abbey Bid over Laundering Report, by Conal Walsh, The Observer, September 26, 2004, http://observer.guardian.co.uk/business/story/0,,1312662,00.html>. FFW asks: how can HSBC and Santander be said to be complying with either (for purposes of this communication) the letter and spirit of the U.N. Global Compact, or with U.S. anti-money laundering laws, if it refuses to disclose any information about the beneficial owners of accounts, to a U.S.-based insured financial institution like Riggs, or even to its own U.S. affiliates? In this case, the funds were from at least two human rights pariahs. Of Pinochet, judicial notice should be taken (procedurally, note that BBC on the evening of January 28, 2005, reported that earlier that day, Pinochets attorneys presented a writ of amparo requesting that Judge Sergio Munoz be declared unfit to continue investigating the Riggs Bank case, the same strategy they attempted with Judge Juan Guzman and the Operation Condor case. Though Munoz himself will rule on the writ, he is prevented from further investigation until he does so. Of Obiang, note as regards press freedom and freedom of conscience that he threatened journalists in Equatorial Guinea when media carried news of the U.S. Senate report on the Riggs scandal. See, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3911855.stm>. Obiang had previously jailed political opponents for insulting him on the Internet. See, <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2164050.stm>.
FFW has formally requested action, which will be reported in this space. [Note: Even a chief technical advisor at the UNDP is unable to reach or get a response from the UN's Global Compact, which lists on its web site neither an address or a phone number...] For or with more information, contact us.
January 24, 2005
Corporate human rights white wash -- of the Unocal settlement, Business Week quotes insiders... that Unocal will pay about $30 million in damages to settle the cases. The award will include money for the 15 plaintiffs and for a fund to improve living conditions, health care, and education in the [Myanmar] pipeline region. Unocal has declined further comment. Meanwhile, China National Offshore Oil Corporation is reportedly considering acquiring Unocal. Chinas oil interests in the Sudan were raised at a recent panel discussion considering what the U.N. Security Council may do about Darfar. The proponents of a referral of the case(s) to the International Criminal Court noted that China has spoken in favor of the ICC. But with regard to Sudan, its oil interests may carry more weight. Unfortunately, the referral is unlikely. A recent visitor to the region reports seeing armaments from Ukraine and Russia....The inquiry into the Pinochet accounts has spread accounts at Banco de Chile's New York and Miami branches. Banco de Chile said Jan. 21 in a statement to Chile's Securities and Insurance Superintendency that the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta is looking into money laundering at it accounts at its Miami branch while the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is handling the New York investigation. Well see...
January 18, 2005
Human rights accountability -- or just securitization? Last week it emerged that Nigeria plans to issue $500 million of Treasury bills to cover its 2004 fiscal deficit while it waits for Switzerland to return funds looted by its former dictator Sani Abacha. In a letter to the Senate earlier this month, President Olusegun Obasanjo said that the government planned to issue 90-day Treasury bills to help finance the 2004 budget deficit in lieu of the $500 million. "The funds are now expected to be released around the end of January 2005 ... This amount was already programmed into the 2004 budget as a financing item. Our plan is to redeem the bills with the recovered funds once we receive them," he said. Nigerian authorities calculate that Abacha embezzled between $2 and $5 billion from the state coffers. And where did it go? By most accounts, to the following:
Credit Suisse and two of its subsidiaries, Bank Leu and Bank Hoffman; Credit Agricole Indosuez; Union Bancaire Privie; MM Warburg; Deutsche Morgan Grenfell in Jersey. In London, branches of ANZ Banking, Banque Nationale de Paris, Barclays, Citibank, Bank of Boston, HSBC, NatWest and Standard Bank of South Africa were among those that held funds looted by Abacha. In New York, Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank) and Merrill Lynch in New York; Goldman Sachs in Zurich, UBS in Geneva...
January 10, 2005
Human rights accountability: in Santiago, Chile, on January 6, a judge backed by eight detectives searched the office of Gen. Augusto Pinochet. The search was part of a separate investigation by Judge Sergio Munoz of multimillion-dollar accounts kept by the retired general at Riggs Bank in Washington. The judge did not comment, but Chilean media reported that he seized some documents. Pinochet's chief lawyer, Pablo Rodriguez, called the raid "illegal" because his client has immunity from prosecution as a former president. The Supreme Court has stripped Pinochet of the immunity to allow his trial on nine kidnappings and one homicide allegedly committed during his rule from 1973 to 1990. But the law requires immunity to be lifted for each case, Rodriguez said. Munoz's judicial aides said the immunity does not protect Pinochet from a police search. Click here for Inner City Press reports on the unfolding Riggs Bank scandal.
Following up on the series of Freedom of Information Act-related stories below in this Report: ICP last week received a FOIA response from the CIA: We reviewed the material and determined it is properly classified and must be denied in its entirety on the basis of FOIA exemptions (b)(1) and (b)(3)... You have a right to appeal this decision by addressing your appeal to the Agency Release Panel within 45 days. Will do. .
January 3, 2005 - Year-end News wrap: Notes from Guatemala, Chile, Bosnia and
- Year-end News wrap: Notes from Guatemala, Chile, Bosnia and Rwanda
While most United Nations news at year-end concerned response to the tsunami, more quietly the U.N.s peace verification mission in Guatemala, Minugua, closed after eight years of operation. The mission extended its stay in September last year during the presidential election in which incumbent Oscar Berger got himself re-elected. Minugua chief Tom Koenigs, in his most recent annual report, refers to ongoing obstacles and setbacks to implementing institutional reforms, combined with a steady deterioration of the National Civilian Police (PNC). Things are still dicey: last week, Salvadoran Public Works Minister Carlos Guerrero had his car shot at during a visit...
In human rights law news, Chile's Supreme Court last delayed into January a decision on whether to uphold an indictment against Augusto Pinochet on murder and kidnapping charges. (The charges stem from "Operation Condor," a plan implemented in the 1970s by Latin American military leaders to repress political opposition.) One member of the five-judge panel, Enrique Cury, said that a ruling will be issued in early January. He did not name a date, nor give a reason for the delay. Oscar Aitken, the financial adviser of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet resigned after nearly two years of service, Pinochet's son Marco Antonio said on December 29. Aitken decided to step down two weeks ago because he feared legal action could be opened against him, Marco Antonio Pinochet added.
Meanwhile, the Bosnian central bank and the entities' banking agencies have not yet received instructions from the B-H Bosnia-Hercegovina Council of Ministers to block the bank accounts of war crimes indictees including Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and 19 other persons accused of war crimes (see below, for list). "We know that the Council of Ministers decided about 20 days ago to freeze the assets and block the accounts of persons indicted of war crimes. However, we have not received any official document instructing us to block these accounts. We cannot act on information obtained from the media," Ibrahim Polimac, spokesman for the B-H Federation's Banking Agency, told Bosnian Serb newspaper Nezavisne novine.
Note: the above-referenced 19 Hague fugitives: Ante Gotovina, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Goran Borovnica, Miroslav Bralo, Vlastimir Djordjevic, Goran Hadzic, Gojko, Jankovic, Vladimir Lazarevic, Milan Lukic, Sredoje Lukic, Sreten Lukic, Dragomir Milosevic, Drago Nikolic, Vinko Pandurevic, Nebojsa Pavkovic, Vujadin Popovic, Savo Todorovic, Dragan Zelenovic, and Stojan Zepljanin.
Inner City Press' quick fact-check of the film "Hotel Rwanda" has dug up, beyond a 2001 radio interview of Paul Rusesabagina (described online at www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/aboutradio4/diary/18.shtml) the following:
From the Press Association of April 28, 1994: UN troops and armored vehicles guarded a hotel in the embattled Rwandan capital of Kigali today against pro-government militiamen who threatened to butcher 300 Rwandan civilians sheltering inside. "We received a threat that these people were going to be slaughtered by militia," said Abdul Kabia, executive director of the UN mission in Rwanda.
From the Press Association of May 3, 1994: Rwandan troops and pro-government militiamen surrounded a UN convoy in the Rwandan capital of Kigali today, preventing it evacuating 300 civilians, UN officials said. "The situation is very tense. Our people are surrounded at the Hotel des Mille Collines and we are sending reinforcements there immediately," an official told Reuters by telephone from Kigali. Abdul Kabia, executive director of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), said: Some elements of the Rwandese armed forces and militias are preventing the evacuation operation from going through. We are having problems getting the people out of there.... The UN convoy carrying 300 refugees later returned safely to the hotel. We have succeeded in returning to the Hotel des Mille Collines and are getting people into their rooms and will provide protection overnight, an official said.
More substantively, from IPS of May 3, 1994:
"In Kigali the killers are looking for those who are hiding and killing them. Yesterday they killed 70 at Nyaminambo (children, old people, pregnant women). No one, especially Tutsi, has been spared," said a Rwandan in a fax sent to Oxfam from the Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali on Apr. 26. "There are 500 of us in the hotel. There are six soldiers guarding us but several attempts have been made to kill us. Do something very soon," the Rwandan wrote. A copy of the fax was delivered by hand to Major today by the heads of five British aid agencies, who are calling for the British government to reverse its support for the U.N.'s "callous and short-sighted" decision to pull out of Rwanda. The current UNAMIR force is widely seen by aid organizations as too small to be effective. The rump 270-man UNAMIR force is mandated to broker a ceasefire, assist humanitarian relief to "the extent feasible," and monitor developments. But with so few soldiers, and a limited mandate, UNAMIR's efforts at arranging a ceasefire have so far been futile.
Jump-cut to the present, from Amnesty Internationals December 21 statement: "The stakes in North Kivu are extremely high. The RCD-Goma, traditionally allied to and supported by Rwanda, regards the province as its bastion. Elements of the political and military wings of the RCD-Goma are increasingly opposed to the extension of the transitional government's authority to the province. Following the loss of South Kivu province to governmental control earlier this year, the dissident RCD-Goma force under its commander General Laurent Nkunda, responsible for multiple human rights abuses across South Kivu, has regrouped in North Kivu." Developing..
December 27, 2004 - Additional update on Proceedings Against
Augusto Pinochet, by staff reporter Matthew Lee
- Additional update on Proceedings Against Augusto Pinochet, by staff reporter Matthew Lee
In Santiago last week, counsel for Augusto Pinochet argued to the Supreme Court that the 89-year-old retired general's health makes him unfit to stand trial on human rights charges, as Pinochet was released from the hospital after five days recovering from a stroke. After three hours of arguments, the court delayed a decision in the case. The court will now decide on December 27. As reported in last week's update, below, on December 13 Judge Juan Guzman ruled, against the judgment of two of the three court-appointed psychiatrists, that Pinochet should face trial for his role in Operation Condor, an intelligence-sharing network used by the dictatorships of the Southern Cone in the 1970s to eliminate leftwing dissidents. Technically, Pinochet is charged with the murder of one person and the permanent kidnapping of nine others. Pinochets indictment, to the surprise of many, brought few cries of outrage from the Alianza por Chile (APC), nor from the armed forces. Disclosures about Pinochet's multimillion dollar secret bank accounts in Riggs National Bank have silenced even his most vocal supporters...
December 20, 2004 - Update on Proceedings Against Augusto
Pinochet, by staff reporter Matthew Lee
- Update on Proceedings Against Augusto Pinochet, by staff reporter Matthew Lee
In positive human rights / accountability news, Augusto Pinochet was last week finally charged with kidnapping and murder dating back to his 17-year rule. The charges relate to nine disappearances and one death in the 1970s as part of Operation Condor, an intelligence-sharing network among South American dictators who helped each other to hunt down dissidents. "The decision [to prosecute], when I studied all the statements and elements of the case, was not difficult," said Judge Juan Guzman. Pinochet's lawyers quickly announced that they would lodge an appeal before the Santiago court of appeals and, if necessary, take the case to the Chilean supreme court, which ruled three years ago that Gen Pinochet was mentally and physically unfit to stand trial. In that case, he had also been indicted by Judge Guzman. The judge sought yesterday to cut off that line of defense, citing statements by Gen Pinochet in a television interview in November 2003. "Gen Pinochet has declared himself mentally fit to be the subject of trial," he said. Developing... For or with more information, contact us.
December 6, 2004 -
Last week, Inner City Press submitted the following Freedom of Information Act appeal to the U.S. Department of State (with similar versions to the Department of Defense, and to the Defense Intelligence Agency)
Re: FOIA Request Number 200303863, Segments AF001, EF001, PM001, DRL1
Dear FOIA Appeals Officer, et al.:
On behalf of Inner City Press... this is a timely appeal under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) of the Departments denial of access to records responsive to the above-captioned FOIA request made on October 8, 2003, and further clarified on November 12, 2003 and March 12, 2004 (the Request).
ICP's Request was divided into three parts, the second of which concerns the elections conducted in Rwanda in 2003. Regarding these elections, we were and are still seeking all records reflecting State Department assessment of fairness, freedom, legitimacy and multi-party status of the election and the preparations for the elections, as that related to the Department's removal of the Rwandan government from the arms embargo list (part 3 of ICP's request) and otherwise.
Ms. Grafelds letter (the Denial) cites, FOIA exemptions 1, 2, 5 and 6. From the Bureau of African Affairs (Segment AF001), 15 records have been withheld in their entirety, and 40 have been partially withheld.
From Central Foreign Policy Records (Segment ER001), 15 records have been withheld in their entirety, and 20 have been partially withheld. The Denial states that [e]ight documents originated with another U.S. Government agency and have been sent to that agency to review and direct reply to you. Subsequently, ICP received a letter from the Department of Defense, stating that the State Department referred six pages of responsive documents to the Office of the Secretary of Defense for review. All six pages have been withheld from ICP by the Defense Department -- but six pages does not equal eight records. If the reference (and referral) were to an agency other than the Defense Department, ICP notes that the above-quoted Defense Department denial is the only other response it has received. ICP requests clarification in this regard (and all improperly withheld or referred documents) in response to this timely appeal.
From the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs (Segment PM001), four records have been withheld in their entirety, and three have been partially withheld. Regarding the referral of documents from Segment PM001, see above; ICP requests clarification in this regard (and all improperly withheld or referred documents) in response to this timely appeal.
Contesting the invocation of Exemption 1, the information can only be withheld if release reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security and the Department is able to identify or describe such damage. EO at Section 1.2. The Denial does not even purport to do that. Nevertheless, Exemption 1 is cited for withholding for example of material in Information Memo labeled A25, after this sentence: The campaign was marred by government harassment and intimidation of opposition candidates and their supporters [REDACTED].
A simply another example, in the documents labeled E45, Exemption 1 is cited for the withholding of material after this sentence: Human rights organizations have publicly called for the GOR to explain a wave of apparently politically motivated disappearances following the Rwandan Governments recent campaign against the MDR [REDACTED].
ICP has submitted similar FOIA appeals to the Department of Defense, and, separately, to the Defense Intelligence Agency...
November 22, 2004
The United Nations has declared 2005 as the International Year of Microcredit. On November 16, 2004 at Columbia University, the present and future of microcredit was discussed by a five-person panel which included two representatives from the U.N., including UNDCF chief technical advisor Christina Barrineau, and two individuals affiliated with Citigroup. Even beyond these two explicit Citigroup representatives, the U.N. representatives referred repeatedly to Citigroup vice chairman (and ex-IMF official) Stanley Fisher. Thus it appears to some that, at least for the U.N. and the self-defined elite of the microcredit industry, the worlds largest bank is the leader of banking for the poor. A questioner at the event noted that Citigroup has been charged with predatory lending to the poor, not only by consumer advocates, but by the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Trade Commission, and other governmental agencies.
During the November 16 discussion, Citigroups Robert Annibale stated that through time, Citigroup might be the originator or booker of the retail loans made by microfinance institutions. He said that Citigroup might sell micro-insurance through the microfinance industrys distributions network, which digs deeper, he said, into the target population.
Mr. Annibale was asked, by Inner City Press' reporter Matthew Lee, to address the incongruity between the activities of CitiFinancial and its predecessors, which have led to governmental charges of predatory lending, and Citigroups claimed role in micro-finance. His response alluded to codes of conduct and legislative change in various countries, but did not address Citigroups predatory lending settlements directly.
A representative from Womens World Banking, Nancy Barry, did distinguish between loans for small business and loans for television sets and the like (and stated that the latter makes up 90% of the purported micro-finance loans in South Africa). In a discussion following the panel, one wag speculated that Citigroup might assist microfinance institutions to make loans to prop up Citis own television and other consumer finance lending. While microfinance certainly has promise for those in need, its capture by the likes of Citigroup is a potentially troubling development, calling out for greater debate and transparency.
A medley of of excerpts from Lee columns from 2004, archived freely here, with emphasis on human rights and press freedom in Rwanda and Chile
October 25, 2004
While Rwandan president Kagame last week presided over the opening of the new $6 million headquarters of Bank of Commerce, Development and Industry in Kigali, in neighboring Burundi, a political opponent faced criminal charges for mere speech. Charles Nditije of the UPRONA political party was charged, in an October 21 press conference held by public prosecutor, Gerard Ngendabanka, who "urged the different political players to weigh their words in this extremely delicate situation when the country was heading for pluralist elections. According to him, political players must guard against making utterances that are likely to disrupt the security despite their having different interests. He stressed those who made such utterances would face the law." Source: ABP news agency, Bujumbura. So in the region: banks but not a modicum of free speech... Many question: can there be democracy without free speech?
October 4, 2004
Tax authorities in Chile have filed a formal lawsuit against the former dictator Augusto Pinochet, based on fraud and tax evasion through offshore accounts that came to light in Julys U.S. Senate report. Chile's internal tax service alleges that General Pinochet filed "false or maliciously incomplete tax declarations". If found guilty he could face up to five years in prison. The US senate report said Riggs took pains to hide the money for General Pinochet, especially during the late 1990s when a Spanish judge issued an international warrant for his arrest on human rights charges and tried to freeze his assets.... Last month, Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who tried to have General Pinochet extradited to Spain in 1998, widened his own investigation against the former dictator, adding charges of money-laundering and concealing assets. He said that deposits made by General Pinochet and his wife in their Riggs bank accounts in 2002 violated an international embargo of his funds, decreed by Mr Garzon in October 1998.
September 27, 2004
In Chile, ex-General Augusto Pinochet is being questioned about political opponents who were abducted and presumably murdered during his 1973-90 dictatorship. The questioning had originally been set for Sept. 7, but was postponed when Judge Juan Guzman was temporarily removed from the case at the request of Pinochet's lawyers, who claimed he has shown animosity toward the 88-year-old former dictator. Of course, many Chilean feel animosity toward Pinochet. The questioning and an eventual indictment became possible after the Supreme Court last month stripped Pinochet of the immunity enjoyed as a former president. The case being investigated by Guzman traces back to "Operation Condor" - a joint scheme hatched by the South American dictatorships of the 1970s to eliminate leftists and quash dissent. According to court papers, 20 Chileans "disappeared" as a result of that operation, which involved the secret services of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. Last week, scuba divers working under a court order from Guzman found several pieces of iron railroad track believed to have been used to sink the bodies of dissidents off the coast of Quintero, 180 kilometers northwest of Santiago. Guzman said he ordered the search after receiving "abundant information" indicating that rails had been used to sink bodies in the area. The military admitted in 2000 that some 200 bodies of dissidents killed in the early years of Pinochet's dictatorship were thrown into the ocean and lakes from helicopters in so called "flights of death." So far, only one of those bodies has been found.
Also last week, the government of Rwanda asked its attorney general to investigate and prosecute individuals and organizations accused in a parliamentary report of encouraging ethnic divisions. "The government recommends that relevant authorities, especially the prosecution and the courts of law, examine alleged acts by individuals, non-profit making organizations, and the civil society in general, and those found guilty be dealt with according to the law," the statement signed by Information Minister Prof Laurent Nkusi, reads in part. In its June findings, the report by a parliamentary commission accused several civil society organizations, schools and churches of promoting "genocide ideology and ethnic division" among Rwandans. Under Rwandan law, advocating ethnic differences is a crime. A sentence ranging from three to 20 years in prison can be imposed on an individual. Many have accused the government of hiding behind ethnicity to suppress freedom of expression and political opposition....
September 20, 2004
Banking in Rwanda: Actis, a UK-based
private equity company, which manages funds for CDC, an arm of the UK government's
international development department, is set to take an 80 per cent stake in the troubled
Banque Commerciale du Rwanda (BCR), one of the country's leading banks and the largest in
state hands. The deal values the Rwandan bank
at just over Dollars 6m. Actis, which described BCR's current situation as "very
distressed", said it would inject Dollars 4.84m after a government financial
restructuring plan to cancel the bank's negative net worth. This would enable the bank to
meet minimum capital ratio requirements. The deal, due to be signed by Gen Paul Kagame,
Rwanda's president, will be the first privatization to be finalized in the country's
banking sector. Another initial sale has been agreed with Fina Bank of Kenya and
Botswana-based Enterprise Holdings for the smaller Banque Continentale Africaine du
Rwanda. The current biggest bank, Banque de Kigali, is controlled by Fortis, the
Dutch-Belgian financial group...
September 13, 2004
Lesser of two evils? Last week the Dominican supreme court returned ownership of the newspaper Listin Diario to Ramon Baez Figueroa, whose Banco Intercontinental collapsed in May 2003 after losing $2.2 billion through embezzlement and fraud. Since then, the paper has been run by the government, hardly a boost to its journalistic credibility. The Civil and Commercial Court of Appeals had ruled that Listin wasn't implicated in the bank scandal, and so should be returned to Baez; now the Supreme Court has agreed. Property rights and the rule of law! Fraudster or government shill -- take your pick... And RIP to Listins now-defunct sister-publications, Ultima Hora, El Expreso and El Financiero...
August 23, 2004
Civil as well as criminal law is used, including on questions of corruption: in Kigali on August 12, the chief editor of a local weekly, appeared before a court of law on defamation charges. Charles Kabonero, Editor-in-Chief of Umuseso newspaper, reportedly appeared before the Kigali City Court in Nyamirambo, to answer to charges leveled against the paper by Vice Speaker of the House of Deputies, Ambassador Dennis Polisi, evidence of whose corruption the paper published two weeks ago...
July 26, 2004
From the U.N. report: "Rwanda's violations involved direct and indirect support, both in the Democratic Republic of Congo and in Rwanda, to the mutinous troops (in Bukavu)." The Kagame regime denied it (then again, they've locked up their opponents and shut down human rights groups, too).. The gangs of "General" Laurent Nkunda remain at large, and there have been reports of clashes between his men and government troops near Goma in recent days. Meanwhile, another of Bukavu's invaders, Col Jules Mutebusi, is said to have retreated back into Rwanda. What should be seen is that internal repression, and shutting down the few quasi-independent voices on the scene, makes many of the regime's claims unverifiable...
July 19, 2004
Cesar Balume Wetemwami, a photojournalist and president of the North Kivu Photographers Association (Association des photographes du Nord Kivu, APHONOKI) in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested by Rwandan military security agents in the Rwandan city of Gisenyi, which lies on the border with the Congolese city of Goma, on or around July 5... Reportedly, Balume was first detained by customs officers as he was crossing into Gisenyi, then the photojournalist was questioned for over two hours at the border station. He was questioned about his "ethnic origins" and his "relations with the Kinshasa authorities." Customs officers also told JED that he is suspected of being "a spy in the service of Kinshasa and the Interahamwe." Due process?
From last weeks Senate hearings: ExxonMobil, Amerada Hess and Marathon Oil contributed to a culture of corruption in Equatorial Guinea. The report cited millions of dollars of payments that the companies made to Brig. Gen. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and his cronies over the years to lease property and fund the education of the children of the ruling elite. Equatorial Guinea was Riggs Bank's largest client, with deposits reaching as much as $700 million, or more than 10% of the bank's assets...
July 5, 2004
Last week the Rwandan parliament called for the dissolution of the League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights, known by its French acronym LIPRODOR, along with four other local human rights / "civil society" organizations, Forum des ONGs rurales, Bureau d'appui aux initiatives rurales, Souvenir des parents and Service de developpement agricole. The claim is that any criticism of the government constitutes inciting genocide. It's outrageous, and many of the countries which did nothing to stop the killing in 1994 now seem to believe they're setting things right by allowing the Rwandan government to silence all of its critics, whether or not the criticism has any relation to ethnicity. In 2003, Rwanda's main opposition political party, the Democratic Republican Movement, was banned following a recommendation by a parliamentary commission, ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections that were won by President Paul Kagame's Rwanda Patriotic Front...
June 21, 2004
The Kagame regime in Rwanda says it will keep the border with DR of Congo closed, since, they say, genocide is waiting on the other side. On June 15, Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Muligande said that the ongoing clashes in the DRC is an attempt of staging another genocide in the region. He made the remark when Mame Balla Sy, chairman of the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council, met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at his office. Muligande said that the Rwanda-DRC border will keep closed until the reason that forced Rwanda to close it is resolved.
June 7, 2004
In Bukavu, renegade army commander Brigadier-General Laurent Nkunda stormed into Bukavu at the head of a 1,000-soldier column last week. Asked if it was at the behest of Rwanda's Kagame regime, Nkunda said, "That is a misunderstanding. Yes, they are our allies. Sometimes we speak by phone. But Rwanda is not behind this operation." Rather, Nkunda says he took over the town to prevent genocide against the Banyamulenge: "The day they began to kill Banyamulenge, I started my march on Bukavu, my war," he said. But most observers find his playing of the genocide card to be spurious. Only time will tell -- for now, the game with the U.N. continues. On June 3, the Swedish military commander, Brig-Gen Jan Isberg, announced that Nkunda had agreed to withdraw his troops "well outside" Bukavu. But on June 4, Nkunda said he was only leaving the city center... As it happens, Nkunda is accused of war crimes: in May 2002 RCD-Goma brutally quelled an attempted coup in the northern diamond trading city of Kisangani. Over 160 suspected mutineers were executed, some of whom had their heads cut off before being thrown into the Tshopo River. Nkunda was commander of the RCD Brigade in Kisangani at the time...
June 1, 2004
In Rwanda last week, the announcement of the verdict on ex-president Bizimungu, jailed for two years, was postponed. He's charged with "ethnic divisionism," for setting up a political party in 2002. His lawyer, Jean-Bosco Kazungu, insists that no proof has been offered to back the charges, " which also include fraud, diverting state resources and illegal possession of a weapon. Bizimungu himself has argued in court that this related to a law covering political parties rather than the penal code used in the prosecution's case.
For now, Bizimungu is one of four former heads of state behind bars. The others are Panama's General Manuel Noriega, arrested during a 1989 US intervention in his country, Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, currently on trial at UN tribunal in the Hague on 66 counts of crimes against humanity, and the Philippines' Joseph Estrada, ousted amid a corruption scandal in 2001 after just 30 months in office.
May 24, 2004
Gacaca-count: so far 2,793 suspects have confessed to roles in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and have requested to be included in the Gacaca proceedings around the Land of Ten Thousand Hills. Rwanda's National Coordinator for Gacaca Domitila Mukantaganzwa said here Monday that about 376 others have been convicted after the courts found them guilty of committing genocide crimes or threatening witnesses during their trials... Meanwhile, the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo said on 21 April that Rwandan soldiers had once again invaded Congo. Rwanda has denied this. "Fresh fighting broke out in South Kivu in early May and 25,000 people have had to flee due to the fighting," according to NGO 11.11.11...
May 17, 2004
Along the Rwanda-DRC border, intrigue continues. On Radio Bukavu on May 8, the acting governor of Sud-Kivu Province, Jean-Pierre Mazambi Munyatta Ngoy, presented as an agent of the "Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda" one Etienne Usabyumuremyi. A Rwandan national, he came to Bukavu to act as a link between the FDLR command at Kilungutu, in Mwenga District (some 150 km to the west of Bukavu town) and its president, who is based in Germany. Some of the Q & A:
Q: How long have you been in DRCongo and why did you come to Bukavu?
A: I have been in Congo since 1994. I came to Bukavu to liaise with FDLR officials in Germany, and in particular with the president.
Q: Who is the president?
A: His name is Ignace Murwanashaka.
Q: How did you get here and where from?
A: I came on a pick-up truck from Mulambi.
Radio Bukavu voiced-over: That was Etienne Usabyumuremyi, who also said that there already were two (FDLR) battalions in Rwanda and that the FDLR had two brigades comprising two 6,000-man battalions....
May 10, 2004
Trouble brewing, short and long term: last week, Rwandan president Kagame warned he will send troops back into neighboring DR Congo if Rwandan insurgents continue to attack his country from bases there. He dismissed U.N. claims that hundreds of Rwandan soldiers were in eastern Congo, thus violating the terms of a peace deal that ended Congo's five-year war. He also insisted that Rwandan soldiers had not entered DR Congo since pulling out in October 2002. Kagame accused the U.N mission in Congo of providing false information. Officials in Kinshasa have called on the international community to put pressure on President Kagame not to carry out his threat....
May 3, 2004
In strangely vague news from Rwanda last week, the Kagame administration bragged on Radio Rwanda that five mayors have "handed in their resignations," and that two of these five were "under investigation. The [Orwellianly named] secretary of state for good governance said that the resignation of the officials was the result of the people losing confidence in them, saying that this was vindication of the government's policy of good governance... Secretary of State Protais Musuni said that the program did not just concern local officials, but would also affect all members of the administration. He said that those found practicing bad governance would be sidelined." Sidelined or imprisoned...
April 26, 2004
At the Tribunal in Arusha, testimony last week closed the noose around le Colonel Theoneste Bagosora. Prosecution witness "KJ" said that the former director of Cabinet signed authorization documents allowing Interahamwe militia to be supplied with weapons and food. The witness told the court that he first encountered the document when he was sent to collect supplies for the camp from Kigali. "On our way, we met an Interahamwe called Abdulrahmani who showed us a piece of paper allowing him to conduct operations throughout the prefecture in Gitarama (central Rwanda). It was signed by Bagosora", the witness told the court. "Many of the authorities came to the camp several times between April and July with similar authorization. It was a typed document from the Ministry of Defense signed by Bagosora"...
April 19, 2004
While the press in Rwanda is too-often muzzled, in bordering countries, questions are asked. In Kenya, Laurent Viguie, the press counselor at the French Embassy in Nairobi, said, "we will not be drawn into any controversy now or in the future. What we want is a constructive relationship with Rwanda devoid of any controversy." Higher up the French food chain, on March 25, the former French foreign affairs minister, Dominique de Villepen, addressed the issue in an article in The Liberation newspaper. The former minister argued that despite having backed the Arusha Agreement's reconciliation process, "confronted with political deadlock and the quickening pace of events on the ground, France opted for a humanitarian intervention, by launching the two-month Operation Turquoise, in accordance with the Security Council mandate and with the participation of several African countries, thereby saving thousands of lives." Just as decimate means killing one in ten, the above means, at most, saving one in ten, an observer pointed out.
April 12, 2004
A panel discussions of Rwanda last week, at Northwestern University in Chicago, included sharp exchanges between an Arusha prosecutor and defense attorney John Floyd, loser of the Media Trial. Mr. Floyd complained that "Third World" judges didn't understand the niceties of press freedom, and stated flatly that Paul Kagame was behind the shooting-down of President Habyarimana's plane on April 6, 1994. An audience member demanded to know the basis of his statement; Floyd repeated suggested the Googling of Jean-Pierre Mugabe, and the recently leaked French court finding. A professor from the University of New Mexico at Las Cruces, who's been following press freedom in Rwanda, bemoaned continued censorship, and the manipulation of media at present in the land of 1000 hills. It was a wide-ranging debate of the type that's much needed -- a type not often possible in Rwanda at present.
April 5, 2004
Less than a week before the tenth anniversary of Habyarimana's plane being shot down, and the slaughter that followed, the television program "Frontline" ran a two hour show called "Ghosts of Rwanda." While most editions of Frontline are investigative, this one was surprisingly limited and uninformative. It began and ended with the talking heads of whites: Dellaire to begin, a Red Cross official at the end, explaining how he and his wife decided to make new life, in honor of Rwanda. That's nice. The show's focus is on why the United States did not act: a story that's been told many times, by Philip Gourevitch then Samantha Powers and now Frontline. [And, in late 2004, by the film "Hotel Rwanda" -- see fact-checking review in Report of January 3, 2005, above.] The background to the slaughter -- Rwandaese history, that is -- is barely mentioned in the Frontline show. It begins in late 1993, with Dellaire's arrival; it ends in July 1994, with the RPF's arrival in Kigali. It does not cover the mass exodus of two million Hutus to the Congo; it does not mention the recent French court finding that the RPF was behind the plane's shoot down. It does not mention the Belgians' administration of Rwanda, using Tutsi to dominate the Hutu. Thus it implies that Rwanda is savage, ethnic, majority against minority. Reviewer's verdict: even Amy Chua, with her "market-dominant minority" thesis in World on Fire, is more illuminating.
March 22, 2004
From prison in Bamako, Rwanda's ex-prime minister Jean Kambanda told Mali's Le Republicain newspaper last week that "Not much in terms of arms and ammunition came from France. Rwanda was then under an arms embargo and the weapons were smuggled in from Israel, South Africa and Albania... We think that this tribunal is unfair. It has been prosecuting only one side for the past ten years and not a single Tutsi has been booked so far."
March 8, 2004
In continuing reaction to the acquittals at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of Andre Ntagerura and Emmanuel Bagambiki, Rwanda's Minister for Justice Edda Mukabangwiza responded that the acquittals "are a miscarriage of international justice" and "unsatisfactory and shocking." The Tribunal's new Chief Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow visited Kigali and assured that appeals of the acquittals will be filed in The Hague. In the Netherlands, former army lieutenant Ephrem Setako was arrested last month, for transfer to Arusha for trial...
March 1, 2004
One out of three: last week the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda acquitted two long-held defendants, Andre Ntagerura, former minister of transport and communications, and Emmanuel Bagambiki, former prefect of Cyangugu. The ICTR simultaneously announced the conviction of, and 27 year sentence for, Samuel Imanishimwe, a former military commander of the Rwandan armed forces. It's been a long time coming: Imanishimwe was arrested in Kenya on 11 August 1997 and transferred to the Tribunal's detention facility in Arusha on the same day. Ntagerura was arrested in Cameroon on 27 March 1996 and transferred to Arusha on 23 January 1997. Bagambiki was arrested in Togo on 5 June 1998 and transferred to Arusha on 10 July 1998.... Meanwhile, in the ongoing military trial, the prosecution witness code-named XAQ has told the court that he "saw Bagosora shortly after the crash of the presidential plane talking to Interahamwe in a meeting in a place called Nonko (near Kanombe camp, Kigali Urban)." There, Bagosora told the Interahamwe "to be courageous in their work"....
February 23, 2004
The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that some 89,000 prisoners are crowded into Rwandan jails. Meanwhile, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda last week mentioned that it might be sending some prisoners back to Rwanda for trail, or to serve out their jail sentences. In Kigali, Rwandan chief prosecutor Jean de Dieu Mucyo told reporters on Feb. 19 that "several tens of thousands" of prisoners have made confessions while in preventative detention but declined to say how many of them would be freed. According to Mucyo, it has yet to be decided if prisoners accused of ethnic "divisionism" and damaging state security, such as former president Pasteur Bizimungu, would be affected by the measure...
February 9, 2004
At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on Feb. 4, Major Brent Beardsley testified that a "third force" planned to "destabilize the Arusha peace accord". Major Beardsley was being cross-examined by Raphael Constant of France, the lead counsel for former Chief of Cabinet in the Ministry of defense, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora. "When UNAMIR went for the tactical mission in August 1993, we only knew of two parties which signed the Arusha peace accord, but in November we realized there was a third force on the side of the Rwandan government which planned to derail the Arusha Peace accord," Beardsley testified. He added that the third group "was determined to discredit UNAMIR, to torpedo the Arusha peace accord. It was prepared to kill." He explained how the UN mission was encouraged by a moderate group which existed on the part of the government, but "the government was split in two, one side complied with the Arusha Peace Accord and the other was undermining the accord. UNAMIR made an effort to find out who the third force were, how many they were, how many weapons they had and where they were," he continued. The defense counsel had asked the accused a question regarding a letter on 3rd December 1993, which had been sent by senior RPF soldiers to UNAMIR informing them that president Habyarimana had a 'Machiavellian plan' to exterminate Tutsis and Belgians. "You said you did not know who carried out the massacres in November but the letter of 3rd December says Habyarimana. You now mention the government's third force. So you knew who killed?," Constant challenged the witness. "Habyarimana seemed to be remote from the whole situation he was not supportive to the mission, the RPF sent us allegations weekly but we did not take all the allegations seriously all the time," Beardsley stated...
February 2, 2004
Last week at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the defense lawyers went on strike, following the testimony of Romeo Dallaire and his assistant, Brent Beardsley. By January 30, the strike was called off; the Military I trial will continue on February 3 (Feb. 2 being a holiday in Tanzania). Before the strike, defense lawyer Peter Erlinder questioned Dallaire about the Quebec conflict:
ERLINDER: The French-speaking Canadians, although they're a majority in Quebec, felt as though they're culture and their very being was being oppressed by the English-speaking Canada.
DALLAIRE: You like to simplify things, but I'll let that go, yes.
ERLINDER: Well, please, general, I don't want to oversimplify. Please tell me.
DALLAIRE: No, we don't have enough time this year to go through that.
THE COURT: Why are you interested in Quebec? We are interested in Rwanda...
January 26, 2004
In Romeo Dallaire's testimony last week at the International Criminal Court for Rwanda, Dallaire recounted how defendant Theonaste Bagosora threatened him at their last meeting, in June, 1994. "Col. Bagosora threatened me with his pistol that the next time he saw me he would kill me," Dallaire told the court. But Dallaire seemed baffled on cross-examination when Bagosora's lawyer, Raphael Constant, asked him why he didn't mention the pistol in his book, or in any official report to the U.N., and instead only made reference to the gun during his testimony here in Arusha. "It's not in the book?" Dallaire asked. Then he picked up his copy and slammed the book shut. But he insisted he did record in the original manuscript of his book that Bagosora drew a pistol...
January 20, 2004
In Kenya, the search for Felicien Kabuga, indicted for genocide by the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, is splitting Kenya's intelligence ranks down the middle, it has been reported (by the East African Standard). Lower ranking intelligence officers who did everything to track down the fugitive, almost always found themselves on a collision course with their seniors. "They gathered the intelligence, put it together but each time they planned a raid it was leaked, or the operation was altogether called off at the eleventh hour on orders from this or that place," the Standard quotes a source that served in operations at the height of the search in 2002. "That way Kabuga was able to, and still could just be living around here and doing his thing." Selling curios? In mid June 2002, police confirmed the arrest of a man who closely resembled Kabuga, at the Kenya-Sudan border town of Lokichoggio. The man was allegedly carrying a passport of the Democratic Republic of Congo and was selling curios by the roadside. The circumstances of the man notwithstanding, it would later turn out that he was not Kabuga after all. Kabuga first fled to Switzerland, only to be expelled in 1995. He briefly settled in Kinshasa but fled to Kenya at the end of 1995. More recently, there have been reports that the Rwanda External Security Organization has records of phone calls Kabuga had made from Nairobi to relatives in Brussels...
January 12, 2004
On January 8, the government of the Central African Republic announced it could not pay civil servants on time this month because it does not have the money. "The state does not have the means to pay the salaries on time. There is no point in our compatriots pacing up and down in their bank branches for nothing," said junior finance minister Mohamed Mahadi Marboua. "The state has real problems. With outside help it had earmarked a maximum of resources between the end of April and now for paying salaries, but the problem persists," he said. State prosecutor Firmin Feindiro told a symposium on the fight against corruption that the government's inability to pay the wages of civil servants was one of the factors behind the corruption besetting the country. "Without the regular payment of wages and without an end to the freeze on those wages to enable civil servants to live decently, any fight against corruption is bound to fail," he noted.
A medley of of excerpts from Lee columns from 2003, archived freely here
December 29, 2003
The world is distracted; the crisis in Sudan's western province of Darfur goes virtually unreported. The English language 'Khartoum Monitor' has been closed since 24 November and the Arabic 'Al-Ayam' since 17 November. the Sudanese government says the papers published "controversial issues that did not promote an atmosphere of peace and concord", 'Al-Ra'y al-Amm' newspaper said. Information Minister Al Zhawi Ibrahim Malik specified that 'Al-Ayam' had published "false information" about the Darfur region. The U.N. knows all about it: With nearly 100,000 refugees from fighting in western Sudan's Darfur region pouring into remote areas of Chad this year the United Nations refugee agency today announced plans to move an initial group of 10,000 from the volatile border to a safer site further inland....
December 8, 2003
Last week the State Department's Bureau of International Information Programs put out a Washington File report about Tommy Thompson's visit to Rwanda along with Richard Holbrooke, noting that "the Thompson delegation traveled to the village of Urugwiro, where Secretary Thompson met with President Kagame." For months the State Department has delayed in responding to a simple FOIA request regarding its review of election fairness and arms embargo-life as related to Rwanda. The report also noted that Holbrooke "is now vice chairman of Perseus, a leading private equity firm." More on this in coming editions. Inner City Press's Constitutional challenge to the Delaware Freedom of Information Act's "citizens-only" provision is proceeding, having been assigned to Judge Joseph Farnan, is now described on FirstAmendmentCenter.org (click here to view); a editorial in the Wilmington News-Journal of December 4, 2003, "Our View: Change the State's Open Records Statute So It Applies to All," recounts ICP's "federal lawsuit asserting Delaware's open-records law is unconstitutional because it refuses access to non-residents," then opines that the "exclusion is silly and probably unconstitutional. The General Assembly should attend to this when it returns to session next month."
December 1, 2003
On November 27, defense lawyers at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda formally asked the tribunal to summon Rwandan President Paul Kagame to testify on the assassination of his predecessor Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994. Kagame and a French anti-terrorist judge who is investigating the assassination, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, "should testify on the assassination of the president," a defense lawyer was quoted by the Hirondelle news agency. "Peace is not possible, reconciliation is not possible if all the truth is not said," he said.
November 24, 2003
On November 20, "Rwandan police seized copies of the country's only independent newspaper and arrested its director and at least two of his journalists on charges of libel and 'divisionism.' Robert Sebufurira, director of the weekly Umuseso, and his two colleagues were arrested for having published 'false rumours, within the framework of the law that prohibits inciting divisionism and libel,' said police spokesman Damas Gatare... A total of five journalists from the weekly were arrested and that the latest edition, due to go on sale Thursday, had been seized at the border with Uganda, where much of Rwanda's press is printed. The edition contained an article on the former head of the Rwanda army Nyamwasa Kayumba and other senior officers that caused offense, according to the police... the edition also contained an article allegedly revealing the salaries of top politicians and officials. The previous director of Umuseso spent a month behind bars early this year on charges of 'inciting divisionism and discrimination' before being released because of procedural errors. The charges came after the weekly published a caricature of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and ran an article judged to be 'divisionist.' Various international rights organizations deem accusations of "ethnic divisionism," in a country still scarred by a 1994 genocide, to be an excuse used by the government to try to silence its opponents."
Meanwhile, as reported below in this Report, the U.S. State Department continues to refuse to release related documents demanded long ago under the Freedom of Information Act.
November 17, 2003
Inner City Press has now responded to the U.S. State Department's attempt to delay producing documents responsive to ICP's month-old FOIA request regarding Rwanda:
Re: Freedom of Information Act Request Number 200303863
Dear FOIA officers [of the Department of State]
This responds to the Department's / Ms. Allen's October 31, 2003, interim response to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request I made on October 8, 2003, on behalf of Inner City Press... Ms. Allen's letter states that "[t]o process your request, we need: an agreement to pay fees.. and a clarification of your request... Please clarify what type of materials you are seeking concerning the elections."
ICP's Request was divided into three parts, the second of which concerns the elections conducts in Rwanda earlier this year. Regarding these elections, we are seeking all records reflecting State Department assessment of fairness, freedom, legitimacy and multi-party status of the election and the preparations for the elections, as that related
to the Department's removal of the Rwandan government from the arms embargo list (part 3 of ICP's request) and otherwise.
As to fees, Ms. Allen's letter indicates that, as a representative of the news media, Inner City Press will receive 100 pages free, and then pay duplication costs. We note that Inner City Press receives fee waivers in full -- that is, does not pay duplication costs -- at such other Federal agencies as the Federal Reserve Board, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, FDIC and Federal Trade Commission. Evidence of the first and last of these is annexed hereto, to encourage your Department to reconsider the imposition of duplication fees as being contrary to the public interest in this instance. However, I hereby state that Inner City Press is prepared to pay, without prejudice, up to $200, in order to expedite our receipt of the documents we requested more than a month ago.
Finally, in order to ensure receipt of the election-related documents we are requesting, we direct you, for the proposition that the Department has responsive records, to Agence France Presse of August 28, 2003 ("US congratulates Rwanda's Kagame on election victory", which reported that
The White House on Wednesday congratulated Rwandan President Paul Kagame on winning a second term in the nation's first elections since genocidal killings left up to one million people dead in the central African country.
"The Rwandan people have taken an important step forward in the political transition and reconciliation of their nation by holding their first presidential elections since the 1994 genocide," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said here, near where President George W. Bush is vacationing on his ranch.
"We congratulate President Paul Kagame on his victory, and look forward to building our relationship with the people of Rwanda, who have demonstrated their commitment to democracy by peacefully turning out in large numbers."
"The United States will work cooperatively with the government of Rwanda, all political parties, and civil society to ensure that Rwanda'a political transition occurs peacefully, freely and fairly," she said.
The US State Department has expressed concerns about reports of voter intimidation and harassment of the opposition and called on Rwandan authorities to fully investigate such incidents.
Clearly, records reflecting the above-reported Department "concerns about reports of voter intimidation and harassment of the opposition," and calls for investigations (and outcomes and documentation of investigation, including given the change in arms embargo status) are responsive to ICP's month-old request. If you have any questions, please immediately telephone the undersigned, at (718) 716-3540.
Very Truly Yours,
Matthew Lee, Esq.
From Uganda's New Vision of Nov. 12: "the fresh allegations that some Members of Parliament in the sixth Parliament could have received financial inducement during consideration of the Bujagali dam project is a matter that must be thoroughly investigated. This allegation puts the image of Parliament as an institution in jeopardy. According to reports, British investigators have discovered evidence suggesting that in 1998, Amisa Consultants Limited, acting for the Nordic consortium, Norpak Power lobbied the Ugandan Parliament with "promise of financial inducements." At first the company allegedly lobbied the MPs to block the Bujagali project because Norpak was then bidding to build the Karuma Falls dam. But after Veidekke entered into a deal with AES, the company allegedly lobbied the MPs, with promises of financial rewards, to support the Bujagali project. These are extremely serious allegations, which must prompt investigation. The individuals implicated have not yet been named. It is also so far not clear whether there is any evidence that money changed hands. Still the allegation is extremely damaging to Parliament that it merits a probe."
November 10, 2003
The U.S. government at work -- in a response (at last) to Inner City Press' October 8, 2003, Freedom of Information Act request regarding the State Department's decision to lift the arms embargo on the Rwandan government (but no one else in Rwanda), State's "Communication Branch" now asks, "please clarify what type of material you are seeking concerning the elections." We were clear about what we wanted; this is simply delay (the State Department denied a request for expedited treatment, saying ICP could appeal -- except that would toll the time line of the underlying request). ICP will proceed, because we are entitled to these documents and will report on them in this space....
October 27, 2003
In Rwanda on October 19, Paul Kagame named a virtually oppositionless cabinet, despite earlier promises to share power. It violated the spirit of the "new" Constitution, which mandates that half of the seats go to opposition parties. First, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and Liberal Party (PL) both supported Kagame in the presidential race, so they're hardly opposition (those parties were outlawed and disbanded). Even so, the PSD and PL were given, basically, minor cabinet posts. The executive secretary of the Great Lakes Region Human Rights League said, "We expected a gesture towards the opposition to gauge the opening up of the new government, but we didn't get it."
October 13, 2003
From reporting to reporting-related action: last week, Inner City Press filed the following Freedom of Information Act request with the U.S. Department of State:
Dear Ms. Grafeld / FOIA officer:
On behalf of Inner City Press, this is a request, including under the under the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA;" 5 U.S.C. § 552) for all records in your agency's possession or control relating to (1) the sale or transfer of defense articles and services to Rwanda, since July 30, 2003; or (2) the presidential and legislative elections conducted in Rwanda (both since July 30, 2003); or (3) any communications involving your agency, inter-agency, intra-agency or from an outside party, from January 1, 2002, forward, related to your agency's decision, published in the Federal Register of July 30, 2003, to "remov[e] Rwanda from the list of embargoed country examples in 22 CFR 126.1(a). " See, 68 FR 44613-44614, also stating that " a policy of denial will remain in place for any new license applications, requests for approval, exports or imports of defense articles or defense services destined for or originating in Rwanda other than by the Government of Rwanda."
To help you identify the responsive records, we note that spokesman Richard Boucher was asked, at the July 30, 2003, press briefing, "Richard, why have you changed the status of Rwanda under the Arms Export Control Act?"
MR. BOUCHER: We have?
QUESTION: It's just above the Chinese sanctions.
MR. BOUCHER: Must not have been in my copy this morning. That's the part that got rained on. I'll check for you and see what we can give you.
The subsequent July 31, 2003, press release stated that "the Department is now prepared to consider on a case-by-case basis, the sale and transfer of defense articles and services to the Government of Rwanda" and that "[t]he Department has determined that it would be appropriate to exercise a partial lifting of the embargo on Rwanda. We will continue to review arms sales to Rwanda on a case-by-case basis." Request (1), above, includes but is not limited to all submissions to the Department since July 30, 2003, and all records reflecting the Department's "case by case" deliberation and decision thereon; request (3) includes but is not limited to all records, including communications to or by the agency, leading to and/or lobbying for or recommending (or opposing or recommending against) the July 30, 2003, "partial lifting of the embargo on Rwanda." Request (2) should be self-explanatory, but if you have any question, please immediately telephone the undersigned, at (718) 716-3540.
Very Truly Yours,
Matthew Lee, Esq.
October 6, 2003
In Rwanda, what a surprise: with almost all opposition parties stricken from the ballot, the RPF last week "won" 73.8% of the vote in the ballot for the Chamber of Deputies, with its candidates taking 40 out of 53 elected seats in the 80-seat parliament. Afterwards, the chief of the EU observers' mission said that all opposition candidates had been "intimidated and harassed." Geerte Bossaert, the Great Lakes region specialist of Belgian development aid organization 11.11.11 , who monitored the election in Gisenyi, said she had witnessed "electoral fraud." "I saw unnumbered ballot boxes. In a polling place in Jenda, I found an unnumbered ballot box containing ballot papers that had been hidden behind a voting booth. All these ballot papers had been folded in an identical way so that only the RPF logo was visible. During the day, however, I had noticed that farmers folded their ballot papers in many different ways or simply crumpled them up, and all at once there was this box with neatly folded papers, which only contained votes for the RPF." She suspects that voting papers had been presented to voters in such a way that only the RPF logo was visible, or that the papers had been "filled out in advance". "One person I know told me that the RPF obtained 100 per cent of the vote in her district, although she had voted for another party." The observers themselves also experienced problems. "In Muramba and Gitega, people were ordered to vote long before the official opening of the polling places so that the observers were too late. In Kanama, the vote count began ahead of the official schedule so as to keep out monitors."
September 29, 2003
Annals of free speech and free elections: in the run-up to the Rwandese legislative elections Sept. 29 - Oct. 2, yet more political parties were outlawed, and elections workers arrested. The targets this time are supporters of Celestin Kabanda and Jean-Baptiste Sindikubwabo, both of whom have been charged with the vague crimes of "divisionism." Trying to avoid the charge, Kabanda'd said he was not giving any speeches during the legislative campaigning period. When a campaign speech can lead to imprisonment, how can the election be said to be free and fair? It can't. And those countries supporting this mockery will have a lot to answer for -- the non-vague charge of hypocrisy, first of all...
September 15, 2003
Another indicia of a free and fair election, largely funded from outside: the searching of the main opposition candidate's home by police, weeks after the election. We report it here not because we are supporters of Mr. Twagiramungu, but because it should not be swept under the rug. "On Tuesday, there was a search and a state of siege between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm... The police showed me a warrant signed by Attorney General (Gerard) Gahima, in which they accuse me of undermining state security and associating with criminals," Twagiramungu said. Gahima later confirmed Twagiramungu's assertion but refused to say what prompted the warrant... Gahima said: "I can confirm that the police were looking for evidence in connection with an investigation into a group of around 10 people, including Mr. Twagiramungu."
And now, "campaigning" in the parliamentary elections, slated for 29 - 30 September and 2 October, begins, under this cloud of the arrest of opposition candidates, outlawing of opposition parties, and seizure of campaign materials. But poll observers are intimidated or limit their review to the day of the election itself...
September 8, 2003
Events since the August 25 presidential election in Rwanda have become even more surreal. After a "campaign" in which opposition political parties were outlawed, and the remaining candidates' posters and other materials were impounded, the head of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) , Chrysologue Karangwa, has claimed that the NEC actually favored the opposition, by not entirely "disallowing" candidate Faustin Twagiramungu. "According to articles 37 and 40 of the law governing presidential elections, Twagiramungu should have also been banned due to divisive ideologies in his campaign leaflets," Karangwa bragged to reporters.
August 25, 2003
As we go to press, voting has started in the Rwandan election. Given events in the run-up to the election, the results will not be credible. Candidate Faustin Twagiramungu had his political party outlawed, and in the final week was harassed for holding "secret" meetings at which, the RPF's Orwellianly-named National Unity and Reconciliation Commission, he spread "hate propaganda." Apparently, for anyone but Paul Kagame to say "vote for me" constitutes hate propaganda. NURC Commissioner Eria Mpayimana fulminated that "Twagiramungu should also know that Rwandans have sacrificed a lot for the sake of reconciliation." Yep -- they sacrificed, or were deprived of, the most basic of free speech rights, for the sake of an easy RPF win.
We will report on the election results next week. A final note: in the reporting on the bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, widely described as the worst attack ever on the U.N., we couldn't help thinking back to 1994, when at least 12 U.N. peacekeepers were killed in Rwanda: the ten Belgians, one Ghanaian, and a Bangladeshi. In the case of the Belgians, their deaths involved torture as well. We agree with one of the things the RPF says: those event should not be forgotten. But the answer is not to make speech -- and thereby remembering -- illegal...
August 4, 2003
In this week when Rwandan courts convicted more than 100 accused genocidaires, the beginnings of an Inner City Press "follow-the-money" inquiry:
. In 1994, near the end of the 100 day period in which nearly a million Rwandans were killed, the extremist Hutu regime went into "exile" in Goma -- where they purported to set up a branch of the National Bank of Rwanda, "which continued to place orders for arms and other supplies, and guarantee payments. A number of foreign banks accepted these orders made by the 'government in exile'... Pierre Galand of Belgium's council of development NGOs (CNCD) cites Citibank, Dresdner Bank (Germany) and Banque Nationale de Paris" (Le Soir, January 27, 1997).
Citibank, now the largest bank in the world, shows up again in the Great Lakes Region, in the 2001 United Nations report on the traffic in conflict diamonds in the Democratic Republic of Congo:
The 56 page report details how transport networks and financial institutions accommodate the exchange of mineral resources for arms, and cash for arms.
"In a letter signed by J.P. Moritz, general manager of Societe miniere de Bakwanga (MIBA), a diamond company, and Ngandu Kamenda, the general manager of MIBA ordered a payment of US $ 3.5 million to la Generale de commerce dimport/export du Congo (COMIEX), a company owned by late President Kabila and some of his close allies, such as Minister Victor Mpoyo, from an account in BCDI through a Citibank account. This amount of money was paid as a contribution from MIBA to the AFDL war effort." Asked about the relationship between BCDI and Citibank in New York, Ba-N'Daw said that Citibank had been the correspondent bank of BCDI
-- "Report Names Culprits in Central Africa's Dirty War," Environment News Service, April 19, 2001
Diamonds, as noted by many, are among the easiest ways to launder money...
July 21, 2003
Human rights in Burundi: in the run-up to the July 20 summit meeting in Dar Es Salaam, Ugandan president Museveni and South African deputy president Zuma took quite different positions -- Museveni went so far as to call for a "military solution." Since the composition of Burundi's army is one of the major issues, whether Mr. Museveni's suggestions make sense is dubious.
Earlier in the week, AFP reported that 40,000 residents of the hills surrounding Bujumbura have fled their homes; MSF reported that 1,900 of the displaced families are in a camp in center-city Bujumbura, while, in a second camp, the distribution of BP5 biscuits ended. According to "a UN spokesman in New York, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in and around Bujumbura will continue to receive food and other assistance provided by the UN through its implementing partners."
On the human rights front "Amnesty International, whose delegates were in Bujumbura last week, has also received credible reports of human rights violations, including extra-judicial executions by government forces, in several of the southern districts. The violations include the reported execution of 10 laborers in Kinindo district on 7 July by government forces. The men were reportedly made to lie on the ground and shot at point blank range. Combatants of the armed political group PALIPEHUTU-FNL (Rwasa) are also reported to have killed unarmed civilians." [For Reuters' AlertNet report on the summit, click here].
July 7, 2003
On the current situation in Rwanda, see this alert / call to action, to which we'll add that the disappeared man, Doctor Leonard Hitimana, figured in testimony at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha in June 2002. According to witness "GK," former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, former Rwandan information minister Eliezer Niyitegeka and other provincial officials "held a meeting in Kibuye on 3 May 1994. Kibuye hospital director Leonard Hitimana requested the assistance of the officials at the meeting with regard to the refugees, explaining that the hospital had run out of medicine and food. During the meeting, GK claimed, Kambanda and Niyitegeka responded to Hitimana's request by making statements that were understood to mean that the orphans and the other refugees should be killed. Kambanda allegedly told Hitimana that he 'should not support the enemy. The children were killed on the day following the meeting,' GK stated, adding that a group of militiamen and gendarmerie removed the children from the hospital and subsequently killed them....Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
June 30, 2003
In the DR Congo, there are calls to investigate killings at Tchomia, Katoto and elsewhere in Ituri "so that those responsible could be taken to court." Before the Ugandans withdrew, hundreds of people were killed in the villages of Drodro, in apparent systematic killings, while others were later killed in the areas of Tchomia near the southern peak of Lake Albert that straddles the Uganda-DR Congo border... Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
June 23, 2003
Ongoing news from the DR Congo: the government in Kinshasa had sent over 100 policemen / soldiers into Bunia; now they're leaving, as the primarily Hema residents state that the government has supported and been allied with the Lendu militia... South African troops, it's reported, will be joining the force in Bunia...
Also this week: a link and a thought. We're much taken by a report issued in London last week, regarding both the environmental and human rights hards caused by prawn (shrimp) farming, worldwide (we were particularly struck by the details from Ecuador [see the Archives of this Global Inner Cities report], that in Muisne up to 80% of the residents have lost their main source of food because of the destruction of the mangroves for prawns). View the full report here. Then, the thought, such as it is: what falls under the rubric of environmental justice in the United States is the U.S. versions of human rights (civil rights, anti-discrimination) as it relates to the environment and health. Also of interest (at least to us) is the United Nations' "Global Compact" having (separate) "Environment" and "Human Right" principles, and primarily-environment organizations reference from time to time to human rights, most recently as the so-called "social" principles included in "Equator Principles" that ten multinational banks recently (and loudly) signed on to...
June 9, 2003
As a French-led UN force enters Ituri province in the DR Congo, militias armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns attacked Bunia on Saturday. Hundreds fled their homes and at least four people were killed after Lendu fighters launched dawn raids on positions held by the Hema-led Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC). The Lendu militia was attempting to retake areas lost to the UPC about 10 days ago and to gain a foothold before the force that could reach 1,700 troops, code-named Artemis, deploys...
June 2, 2003
While the U.N. Security Council took some action on the DR Congo conflict last week -- a Franch-led peace enforcement team of 1400 slated for Bunia -- it does not seem to be enough. Asked whether the blue helmets would be able to follow the combatants beyond Bunia, the French ambassador to the U.N. was adamant: no. So what's the point? Update of June 4: especially now that it's clear that the slaughter has spread beyond Bunia -- for example, to "the town of Tchomia, 55km east of Bunia, on the shore of Lake Albert" (click here for that).... Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
May 26, 2003
From the DR Congo, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reports that at least 20,000 people, mainly from the Hema and Alur communities, had been registered since the beginning of May by authorities in villages in the two western Ugandan districts of Nebbi and Bundibugyo "There have been reports of militias attempting to infiltrate sites where internally displaced persons [IDPs] are currently located," the UN's Fred Eckhard said in New York. As a result, Eckhard said, the UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) was maintaining tighter surveillance at the campsites. He also described the humanitarian situation in Bunia as "critical", with 4,000 people camped at the MONUC base and another 9,000 at the tiny airport... Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
May 19, 2003
"Never again" -- what does it mean? In 1994, the international community -- including the United Nations and the United States -- stood by as 800,000 people, mostly Tutsi, were killed in Rwanda in 100 days. While the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda churns on Arusha, Tanzania, in the Eastern Congo in May 2003, Lendus are killing Hemas, with guns and, yes, machetes. And the world community?
BBC on May 15 ran still photos offered up by Oxfam. A Human Right Watch spokeswoman was filmed, speaking, on the steps of a brownstone in an unidentified city. Then, Lendu and Hema footage from three years ago was shown. Apparently there are no cameras in the DR of Congo.
May 5, 2003
Off the coast of Nigeria, the end of the oil worker hostage crisis on May 1 came as "two plane loads of former British special forces members ha[d] just taken off for an interim destination to...prepare for the operation" -- that is, to raid the oil rigs -- according to the director of "private military company" Northbridge Services Group. Northbridge refused to say who had hired its mercenaries. It was previously report to be involved in Cote d'Ivoire; it proudly announces that it provided security for Who guitarist Pete Townsend earlier this year. What Northbridge calls itself is a "Private Military Company." Somewhere in all this, a lawsuit is brewing, under the Alient Tort Claims Act or otherwise; the question would turn on "state action."
April 28, 2003
In India last week, a Supreme Court order to evict squatters on the railway land beside the Rabindra Sarobar lake in south Kolkata was "welcomed" by environmentalist Subhas Dutta. The eviction, he said, would improve the health of the "second largest lung of the city and the only national lake in the state". A division bench of the apex court directed the Calcutta High Court to see that the eviction order passed by competent authorities were carried out. There are about 5,000 squatters in the area. Dutta was the original petitioner of a PIL in the HC on behalf of Howrah Ganatantrik Nagarik Samity, praying for upkeep of the lake and alleging the squatters were polluting the environment...
April 21, 2003
From the April 11 speech of Roberto F. de Ocampo at the fifth symposium on Asia-Pacific Architecture, re "the proliferation of informal settlers: While the problem of informal settlers, or squatters, is to be found in many Asian cities, nowhere is the squatter problem as tenacious as it is in major Philippine cities, particularly the greater Manila area. The squatting phenomenon has been a major problem due to the increase in urban population. Urbanization has come at a high cost - urban density has resulted in the Philippines laying claim to one of the largest squatter communities in Asia. Its cities are virtually choking to death - the result of increased congestion, traffic and pollution, deteriorating environmental quality. Coupled with increasing costs of urban services and declining coverage, and the inability of cities to provide employment to an ever- increasing population, the result is a dismal parody of the once-revered economic model of the urban/industrialized sector absorbing the excess labor of a modernized agricultural sector.
"The rapid urbanization of the Philippines is most particularly defined by the emergence of Metro Manila, the premier political, economic, and social center of the country as a new "mega-city." Metro Manila is the 18th largest metropolitan area in the world, and one of the largest in the Asia-Pacific region. With a population of close to 10 million, population density in Metro Manila is over 15,617 persons per square kilometer. In contrast, the national average man-land ratio is 255 persons per square kilometer. It has been estimated that 26% of Metro Manila's 1.6 million households are squatters or migrants....". Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
April 14, 2003
From the United Nations Commission on Human Rights' recent debate on economic, social and cultural rights, the following: Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka of the U.N. Human Settlements Programme said almost 900 million people in developing countries live in poverty without security of tenure and in conditions that could be described as life and health threatening. Over half of these live in urban slums... Birte Scholz of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions said 70 per cent of the 1.6 billion persons in the world who were inadequately or not housed were female - that meant that almost one-third of the world's women were living in informal settlements, slums, squatter communities, or on the street. The following examples: in Uganda, women struggled for laws to protect ownership rights; in Nepal, women united to physically block bulldozers coming to destroy their homes; in Peru, women built themselves houses out of self-made bricks.
April 7, 2003
In Korea, Samsung Capital is charging customers unreasonably high interest on its loans based on installment financing, according to supervisory bodies. The Samsung Group's money lending unit was found to have extended loans at an annual interest rate of 25 percent to customers who want to buy used cars, the Korean Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) announced last week. If a consumer buys a 9 million won used car by borrowing money from Samsung Capital on an installment basis, the amount to be repaid will be at least 13 million won, including the interest of around 4 million won. As there is no interest rate ceiling, capital service companies jack the interest rates up to 66 percent, the rate at which local private lenders are charging borrowers. Quite a few similar complaints against LG Capital and Daewoo Capital have been filed with the FSS consumer protection center...''Like many loan sharks, employees at LG Capital used threats of violence against our family for overdue payments without revealing their names,'' housewife Park Hyun-ok said... Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
March 31, 2003
From the Ukrainian newspaper Segodnya of March 19: Kiev Region police in charge of combating economic crimes in Chernobyl's exclusion zone are working on a case that may cause a scandal...'We have had sporadic reports about caesium-contaminated cow carcasses allegedly found in areas bordering on the 30-km compulsory resettlement area,' Volodymyr Zubkov, an investigator of the economic crime directorate said. 'Badly strapped for cash, squatters sold cattle for under 1,000 hryvnyas about 190 dollars per head, half as much as the prices charged on the "mainland". Fattening would involve extra costs and lower profits. People are keen at math in this day and age only when it comes to counting the contents of their own purse. The meat was processed at a factory supplying a wide range of products to shops and supermarkets in Kiev and Bila Tserkva Kiev Region . The cows and bulls saved from slaughter are now gaining fat in a village in Makarivskyy District. They have undergone contamination tests to show a level of 130-190 Bq per kg of live weight. The concentration of radionuclides in meat obtained from such animals was far beyond permissible limits. Industrial processing multiplies the danger. Produce from such meat is not edible. Criminal proceedings have been launched against the procuring company. Investigation is under way.'"
March 24, 2003
Kenyan update: last week, more than 2,500 squatters stormed a meeting and pulled out three MPs to help them secure the release of their colleagues arrested at the weekend. Mr Joe Khamisi (Bahari), Mr Morris Dzoro (Kaloleni) and Mr Joseph Kahindi Kingi (Ganze) were pulled out of a Kilifi District Development Committee meeting at the local county council chambers by the irate villagers. The squatters in police custody were arrested on Saturday after invading the 2,700-acre land on the Mombasa-Malindi highway. They were taken to the Kilifi Resident Court cells yesterday. Attempts by their colleagues to storm the cells and set the suspects free were thwarted by heavily armed police who cordoned off the place. The MPs pleaded with the farmers to give them time to discuss the matter with the local security team. But the squatters could hear none of it and booed and heckled the leaders...
March 17, 2003
From an interview with the first chairman of Singapore's Housing and Development Board, Lim Kim San: The HDB's toughest sell was not acquisition of the land, but resettlement of the people evicted from that land. HDB officers often had to push people out of squatter homes they had lived in all their lives, to move them into newly-built, high-rise flats. He recalls that when HDB first relocated about 80 squatter families along Kim Seng Road to brand-new flats in nearby Queenstown, more than half the families moved back in less than six months.' Living in HDB flats, they had to budget for rent, electricity, light and water. As squatters, the rent was only $1 to $2 a month. They could use Stormking gas lamps, get water from a common standpipe for free, and supplement their income by rearing chicken and pigs,' notes Mr Lim....
March 10, 2003
From Korea: Private moneylenders will likely share client information soon. Currently, a major consortium comprised of 32 domestic and 15 Japanese private lenders has stored and swapped information on over 100,000 borrowers. They are now moving to expand the number of borrowers on their information-swapping list. Regulators expected their move to contribute to a reduction of the number of credit defaulters, but are worried over possible misuse of customer information, such as using the details to blackmail delinquent borrowers. ''Though their sharing of customer information may be helpful to the prevention of bad loans, there is a high possibility that some loan sharks will fraudulently use others' client information,'' an official of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS) said. According to the FSS, the five top private lenders in February were all based in Japan, and each of these lenders had extended credit of over 100 billion won ($83.3 billion) to customers. These five lenders, Happy Lady, Partner Credit, Progress, A&O International and Women Credit, were all found to have come under the same flagship company in Japan. An FSS official said the supervisory body is closely monitoring whether these private lenders are distorting income reports in an effort to reduce taxes. According to the official, quite a few companies among some 20,000-30,000 private lenders over the country, identified by the National Tax Service, were reluctant to register their businesses officially. Private moneylenders were required to register with the authorities concerned under a law on usury businesses by Jan. 26. But only two out of every 10 lenders have volunteered to have their business registered...
March 3, 2003
In Kenya, a Feb. 27 meeting of 21 members of Parliament at the Old Chambers of Parliament in Nairobi resulted in calls for the revival of collapsed industries in the Coast Province, including the Ramisi Sugar Factory, Kilifi Cashewnut Factory and Tiwi Bixa Factory. Bahari MP Joe Khamisi said, "It is regrettable that 40 years after Independence, 70 per cent of the local people are still squatters on their land." Dr Karuti Kanyinga, a senior research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Nairobi and an expert on land matters, points out that trust land has been individualized mostly by provincial administration officials who comprises Provincial Commissioners, respective "District Lords," that is, the District Commissioners and Land officers. "Provincial Commissioners and their fellow District Commissioners and land officers have been grabbing trust lands wherever they are stationed, converting them to be their own in total disregard of the people's right over their communal land," says Dr Kanyinga. Until next time, for or with more information, contact us.
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