23.03.2009 Feature Article

Hiding Africa’s Looted Funds: Silence of Western Media

Hiding Africas Looted Funds: Silence of Western Media
23.03.2009 LISTEN

Quite often when you read newspapers, listen to radio and watch television in the West you learn how poor Africans are and how corrupt African leaders are. But you will never watch, read or hear anything in these media outlets about the role being played by Western banking institutions; property development and estate companies; the big corporations; and the western political and business elite in promoting corruption in Africa. When it comes to Africa and the developing world the Western media pretend to be doing a good job only when there is an embarrassing story or a scandal that undermines their credibility as the watchdog of the state.

It is not uncommon to see poverty stricken Africans in poor living conditions being shown in documentaries, movies, and television screens in the West but the same documentaries and movies are always silent on the role play by the institutions in the West. Bribery as we all know involves a giver and a taker but it is always the taker who is reported in media. In many instances as we shall soon see bribes are offered in order to secure contracts, secure official favour or to induce officials in order to influence the out come of a government decision. In other instances people become corrupt because of the existence of favouring conditions as can be seen in most western countries with their banking secrecy laws.

The media in the west tend to ignore the role of western institutions for many reasons. One main reason why they would like to show the poverty level in Africa but refuse to show the role played by the western banking, property, multinational corporations is the fear of loosing revenue through adverts. Many of the media outlets survive through advertisements from the property, banking and multinational corporations so while would they want to incur their wrath? Another reason is that the editors, programme directors and the other bigshots in the media are themselves shareholders of these banks and property companies so why would they want to jeopardise the source of their own wealth? The enthusiasm with which CNN, BBC, ABC, CBS, ITN, SKYNEWS and other television producers portray Africa as poor and least developed; the same cannot be said about the way they report on the role played by the Western banking and other institutions. They fail to tell the world that the looted funds that make Africans poor are indeed sitting in Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand and the offshore Islands controlled by the West. They fail to tell the world that Africa would be a different place if all the stolen monies are returned, but would they ever raise a voice in support of such a laudable idea? Why would the media change the way they report when for centuries they have been the source of all the misinformation and misrepresentation of anything unwestern?

Corruption is rife in Africa because there are banking institutions in Europe especially Switzerland, France, Jersey Island, Britain, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Austria, US and many others who accept money from African leaders without questioning the source of the money. According to the UN around $148 billion are stolen from the continent by the political leaders, the business elite and civil servants every year with collusion and connivance of banking industries in Europe and North America.

Even though it is a common knowledge western banks are acting as safe havens for looted funds from Africa, very little attention is received from the western media to expose them. The media tend to focus their energies on the corrupt leaders with little or no mention at all as to where the monies they have stolen are being kept. There has not been any concrete effort to expose the banks that collude and connive with these corrupt leaders who are impoverishing the people. No effort has been made by the political elite in Europe and America to force the banks to return these stolen monies to the poorest of the poor because they are often the shareholders and beneficiaries of profits made by these banks. They talk about corruption because it is embarrassing to them but they have no agenda to fight it as that would mean no fat dividends for them and no cheap credits for their citizens.

Even the Pope knows that the monies stolen are in Europe and America as is seen below. Within five years of his reign (1993-98) Sani Abacha of Nigeria according to official figures was able to stash four billion dollars and between 12 and 16 billion dollars in unofficial terms. After his death in 1998, investigators in Nigeria, Europe and America stumbled on over 130 bank accounts in abroad where some of the money stolen was kept.

The banks that received Abacha's stolen funds are: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, ANZ, London Branch; Bank Len, Zurich; Bankers Trust Company, London; Bankers Trust Company, Frankfurt; Bankers Trust Company, New York; Banque Barring Brothers, Geneva; Bank in Liechtenstein A. G. Vaduz; Barclays Bank, New York; Barclays Bank, London; Banque Edouard Constant, General; Banque Nationale De Paris, Geneva; Banque Nationale De Paris, London; Banque Nationale De Paris, Basle; Citibank N. A. London; Citibank N. A. New York; Citibank N. A. Luxembourg; Citibank Zurich; Credit Lyonnais , New York; Credit Suisse , New York; Credit Suisse, General; Credit Suisse, Zurich; Deutche Morgan Grenfell, Jersey; FIBI Bank (Schweiz) A. G. Zurich; First Bank of Boston , London; Goldman Sachs and Company, Zurich; Gothard Bank, Geneva; LGT Liechtenstein Bank, Vaduz; Liechtenstein Landesbank, Vaduz; M. M. Warburg and Company, Luxembourg; M. M. Warburg and Company,Zurich; M. M. Warburg and Company, Hamburg; Merrill Lynch Bank, New York; Merrill Lynch Bank, Geneva; Midland Bank, London; National Westminister Bank, London; Paribus, London; Paribus, Geneva; Royal Bank of Scotland , Leeds; Standard Bank London Limited, London; UBS AG, Zurich; UBS AG, Geneva; Union Bancaire Privee, Geneva; Union Bancaire Privee, London; London Branch; Verwaltungs Und Private Bank A. G., Vaduz; and ANZ, New York; ANZ, Frankfurt. Source: Tell Magazine, October 7, 2002.

On February 2009, a French court had Omar Bongo's 9 bank accounts containing several millions of Euros frozen. In confirming the court's decision lawyer Jean-Philippe Le Bail said, "This concerns Crédit Lyonnais, in which the president of Gabon has two current accounts, two savings accounts and a share account, and BNP, in which he has two checking accounts, a savings account and a share account".

These are the banks whose shady dealings with the political and business elite in Africa continue to impoverish African countries but which for profits sake the media refuse to tell the world about. The banks know these corrupt leaders have stolen the money yet they pretend not to know until there is a scandal before they begin to act as if they are responsible institutions. Most of the above named banks have also been implicated for receiving billions of dollars of looted funds from the lates Mobutu of Zaire; Lansana Conte of Guinea; Eyadema of Togo; and a number of dictators and tyrants such as Omar Bongo of Gabon; Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea; Dos Santos of Angola; Denis Sassou- Nguesso of Congo; Paul Biya of Cameroon; Arap Moi of Kenya; Jerry Rawlings of Ghana; Ibrahim Babadjinda of Nigeria and a number of sitting and ex-presidents in Africa yet western media are silent about where the funds are being kept.

According to a 110 page report prepared by international risk consultancy firm Kroll, Arap Moi and his family have banked £1 billion in 28 countries including Britain but the media in the west will not expose the banks involved.

Apart from the banking sector, the property sector in Europe, America and Australia have also colluded and connived with the political and business elite in Africa to impoverish the people. It has been revealed that several African leaders have bought properties in Europe and America using the monies stolen from their poor countries. It is on record that Mobutu of DRC (Zaire)bought several villas in France, Switzerland, Belgium and many European Countries. Yet again the companies selling the villas have been kept secrete. They will not be exposed by the media. Why would they? According to AFP a French police investigation has established that Bongo and his family own at least 33 luxury properties in France, including a villa located at Rue de la Baume, near the Elysée Palace, in Paris bought in 2007 for 18.8 million Euros. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been spotted greeting Bongo in this villa bought with funds looted from Gabon. However, other investigations have uncovered that he and his family have at least 59 properties, several bonds and stocks in France alone. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was embarrassed when it was revealed that Bongo's government paid his consultancy firm a staggering 2.64 million Euros for advice on health policy drawn up by Kouchner before he took office. It has recently come to light that Arap Moi of Kenya and his family bought several multimillion pound properties in London, New York, South Africa including 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia and bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of pounds. While majority of Kenyans live in slums and in rural areas, with little roofing on their heads and lacking water and other basic necessities of life, Moi's family live in a £4m home in Surrey and £2m flat in Knightsbridge yet the media will not expose the estate companies involved.

Another area often ignored by the western media is the role play by western companies and corporations in encouraging corruption, bribery and thievery in Africa. It is very common for western companies looking for lucrative contracts to pay bribes and kickbacks to induce officials into awarding them contracts. For example on 17th September 2002, a Canadian firm called Acres International was convicted by a High Court in Lesotho for paying $260,000 bribe to secure an $8 billion dam contract. In 2002 Halliburton a company once controlled by Dick Cheney former US Vice President, Harliburton, was accused of establishing $180m flush fund with the intent of using it to bribe Nigeria officials in order to secure a $10 billion Liquefied Gas Plant contract in Nigeria. Achair Partners a Swiss company and Progresso an Italian company have been accused of bribing Somalia Transition Government officials in order to secure contracts to deposit highly toxic industrial waste in the waters of Somalia. Such corrupt practices by western companies seeking contracts in Africa are one of the reasons why poverty and diseases are rife in the continent.

The catastrophic environmental damage being caused by Oil, mining and timber companies such as Shell, BP, Total, Elf, Texaco, Mittal, Anglo-America Corporation in Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Congo, DR. Congo, South Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Senegal do not make the news in the West. How often do we hear about the huge environmental price Africans are paying to satisfy the west insatiable appetite for energy and technology? Apart from the huge profits being made by these conglomerates which we often hear in the news, do we hear also their complete disregard for environmental rules; the pollution of rivers, lakes, streams, wells, and the environment?

In October 2002, after a three year investigation a UN Panel of Experts implicated Cabot Corporation (Boston), Eagle Wings Resources International, and George Forrest's OM Group (Ohio) for arming rebel groups and collaborating with them to traffic from DR. Congo gold, diamond, timber and most importantly coltan (columbo-tantalite)-a precious ore essential to Sony playstations, laptop computers, and cell phones. Coltan is often spirited out of DRC to U.S., Swiss, Belgian, and German clients by Uganda and Rwanda army officers, rebel groups and through a network of criminal syndicates. In all 85 companies were implicated by the report. Except the wars and the stranded faces of hungry refugees, do these illegal activities by the corporations make the news in the Western media? Definitely not. Even when local journalists and writers document these for broadcast in the western media they refuse because it does not serve their interest in the wider scheme of things. These are the hypocrisy and the double standard of the western media. They want the world to know how poor Africans are but fail to tell the world that Africans are poor because Western banking institutions, property development companies, defence companies and defence contractors, oil, mining and technology corporations are major stakeholders in promoting Africa's poverty and underdevelopment.

Corruption and bribery in Africa and indeed the developing world could be reduced tremendously if the media for once put aside the pick and choose journalism and attach the same importance to show the degree of involvement by western capitalist institutions in Europe, America and Japan and their role in keeping Africans poor.

By Lord Aikins Adusei

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