Convicted of Bank fraud, imprisoned and released, 38-year-old Kweku Adoboli was finally deported from Britain, a country he has lived in for 26 years, to Ghana, a country he last lived in when he was 4 years old. This ends a long-protracted appeal process to allow him to remain and continue living in the UK which is basically his home. He was in boarding school at Ackworth where he was a head boy, graduated at the University of Nottingham and ended up working at arguably the financial capital of Europe, central London. I would certainly contend that it doesn’t get any more British than that. In
I can say that this is not the life story of your typical Ghanaian young man.
Different people have different perspectives on him as an individual and they are entitled to their opinions. I do see this case from multiple perspectives, having spoken to several young people in Britain of African background, just like Kweku. Some say he is a scapegoat for the racist deportation policies in the UK. I do not think that anyone would argue that the colour of a person’s skin has no bearing on the immigration policy of Britain after we all saw what happened with the Windrush scandal. Others have also contended that he was the perfect scapegoat to throw in jail as a sign that the UK was willing to crackdown on fraudulent bankers especially after the 2008 financial collapse
which banks played a major role in. I use the word scapegoat because the banks that needed bailouts like RBS were savings banks unlike UBS which was at least at that time an investment bank.
Kweku did not siphon money for himself, he did however recklessly trade in an effort to make money for the Bank. In other words, UBS is a bank which ordinary folks do not even access to and the same practises by Kweku that lost the bank $2billion led them to eventually record an overall profit of over $3billion that same year. We therefore need to disabuse our minds off the fact that Adoboli defrauded taxpayers of the UK and he was rogue. He was not alone in this practise and UK taxpayer bore no responsibility for the money that he lost. It is largely agreed by almost everyone though that he is in
several ways, the architect of his own misfortune either advertent or inadvertently.
As a Ghanaian Brit around the same age as Kweku, my question has always been, what kind of friendship inner circle he had before his issue arose? Did he communicate with Ghanaians in Britain?
I can confidently say that many Ghanaians in Britain as soon as they are eligible for British citizenship will not hesitate to apply for it. They will do it even if they do not “feel British”. Citizenship is viewed by different people through different prisms although the ultimate aim is unfettered access to the UK. For some, it’s a feeling of national pride to be British, for others, it’s the security of being able to travel to and from the UK as they please. Yes, citizenship can be applied for, for convenience or even transactional reasons. I have no doubt that if he had Ghanaian friends in his social circle in Britain, he would have definitely been advised to apply and get a British passport when he was 18 at least for that security. As an Africans who is very familiar with the idea of “hostile environment” which is proudly proclaimed by Theresa May anytime she gleefully talks about borders,
I am reminded that, being British is not a lived cultural experience, as it should be. “Britishness” for us is either through blood or through an allegiance to the queen through naturalisation and it was incredibly naïve of Kweku, a Ghanaian, not to have recognised this reality. Ask any black person who was born and bred in Britain how many times they have encountered the question, “Where are you really from?”, I guarantee you that the white person asking this question is not expecting the answer
to be London. They ask, because subconsciously, they do not see you as equally British as they are.
This is why Kweku should have known that the only way to guarantee “Britishness” is by
naturalisation and even that, does not insulate you from the fact that many will always see him as a foreigner anyway. My point, Kweku saying that he feels British does not resonate with the right wing white Brits which the Home Office is desperately trying to please. Do you think that this statement is implying racism? Yes it is. Just go to the detention centre and tell me how many people there that are not people of colour.
Let us turn our attention to finance because this is where the story is. But before that, it is important to get some perspective before jumping on to lynch Kweku. Royal Bank of Scotland that actually has chequing accounts of ordinary workers had to be given tax payers money of £45.5 billion as a bailout.
It appears that the government will not get the money back according to the current chair of UBS, Sir Howard Davis. Interestingly enough, no one was arrested for causing financial loss to the state (that literally happened). UK taxpayers had to take a hit for this. Another interesting issue is LIBOR scandal which was basically the manipulation of interbank lending rates by a host of global financial institutions. These banks that does include UBS by the way have been implicated in manipulating interest rates for profit starting as far back as 2003 according to the council of foreign relations.
Again, no one was in jail for this heist. Before I start addressing Kweku Adoboli, how about HSBC knowingly laundering money for terrorists and drug cartels? Guess who was convicted. That’s right, no one.
Now that we have a fair idea of what multinational banks have been doing, let us turn our attention to Kweku Adoboli. No one is saying that this was not a crime, it clearly was and perhaps he deserves the jail time he got. But one of the things I noticed was how he was plastered all over the newspapers in UK in 2011 as some poster boy for out of control banking mal-practises in the UK. This is why I used the word “scapegoat”, Kweku did not siphon money to a private personal account, he did not pay himself a golden parachute, he did not launder money for terrorists or drug cartels, he did not manipulate interest rates and did not cause financial loss to the UK government. Other UK bankers
who were never prosecuted however did. As in Investment Banking, trading of commodities and currencies can obviously go wrong which is why he should have insured his bets. But then, what no one is willing to talk about is the reward associated with high risk (uninsured) betting in the financial markets. That is the modus operandi of these banks although that does not seem juicy for the corporate press of the UK as long as they have this none British Ghana guy they can crucify in public.
One of my questions has always been why investigators never scrutinised the practises of the entire UBS bank rather than just hauling two low level managers to court (Kweku Adoboli and Ron Greenidge both black men). Ron Greenidge was cleared and Kweku basically became the “rogue” trader. I guess they had to use the word rogue to sort of send a subliminal message that it is just the action of one individual rather than the modus operandi of the bank. Accused of not being apologetic by the judge when Kweku maintained that this was standard operating procedure in the trading world,
Kweku was convicted and sentenced. UBS did however make a profit that year despite Kweku losing $2billion. I guess his “rogue” behaviour barely hurt them.
Now, Kweku was deported a few days ago to Ghana as he never applied for a British passport. I remember when he came out of prison and stated that he wanted to help clean the banking industry.
My first reaction as an African was, “You are not even British, what makes you think you can clean up the mess at Central London”. As admirable as these aims are, Kweku and the people around him fundamentally misunderstand how things work in UK. Newsflash, the Financial institutions have become incredibly powerful and easily sway government decisions.
This is the reason why HSBC still operates despite laundering money for terrorists. This is also the reason why no high level manager went to jail at UBS. Does he really believe regulators do not know about money laundering and illegal trading practises in central London?. May be its unrelated but I think his idea of wanting to take on the banks were always going to hurt him than rather help him. The results, 130 MPs support him
remaining in the UK but the wheel him to Ghana like a common criminal anyway. The banks want to continue raking in profits and the last thing they want is a former insider with the passion to take them on.
These are the practises that have made them powerful. Kweku failed to recognise that
What do I think of the various schools of thoughts when it comes to the last 7 years of Mr Adoboli’s nightmare? Well, I am sure he will easily get a very decent banking job in Ghana. Was he made to be the fall guy for the bad reputation of British Banks? yes, without a doubt. Was the idea of a hostile environment for people like him so that he would feel uncomfortable in the UK racist? Obviously, it is.
Again, anyone can go to that detention centre and count the number of people there that look Caucasian. Did he make a massive mistake not applying to be British after his education? Clearly because he could not have been deported if he did. Finally, why is he being deported when he is clearly no danger to anyone? Two reasons, the Home Office is appealing to a right wing base by removing as many people as possible, mostly none-white and of course there is this little issue of him being a former banking insider
This is an epitome of the power of the big Financial institutions and what they can get away with as much as it is, the naïveté of an African young who had the privilege of getting a great education and life in the UK only to lose it all after trying to make money for the Bank he worked for. Loose taxpayers money and there is no consequence like RBS, fund terrorist or drug cartels and you will just be fined a fraction of your profits like HSBC, fix international interest rates and all you receive is afine. However, dare to lose Banks money through a risky bet and you will be undone just like Adoboli
was. Plastered in the newspapers, painted as the worst thing that happened to Britain and removed from the country you culturally identify with.
My advice to all Africans in Britain, if you are eligible for naturalisation, advise yourself. With Adoboli, they have an excuse, with Hilary Ineomo-Marcus another person who grew up in Britain being considered for deportation, they have another excuse. I will not put it past the Home Office to start removing none citizens for parking fines and traffic violations. Citizenship is the only way you guarantee that you do not get removed. My teacher in Ghana once said, “A word to the wise , …..”
WRITTEN BY Julius Paddy: Political Junky and a cultural critic. Interests in Pan- Africanism and socio-economic realities.