UK BANKS ACCUSED OF BOYCOTTING CUBA
Campaign News | Monday, 23 June 2008
Guardian Article and BBC report
Guardian 23rd June Duncan Campbell
UK BANKS ACCUSED OF BOYCOTTING CUBA
Leading British banks have been accused of operating a covert embargo of Cuba out of deference to the US. The accusation comes after revelations that Lloyds TSB and Barclays Bank have been telling clients who trade with Cuba to take their accounts elsewhere.
Although none of the major banks are prepared to go on record over their policy towards Cuba, the Guardian has learned that Lloyds TSB, Barclays Bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC are all complying with the US blockade of the island that was condemned in the UN earlier this year by a vote of 184 to four. The US has taken legal action in the courts against multinational companies that deal with Cuba and have offices in the US.
Last week a London cigar importer and a Somerset natural food company, which imported Cuban sugar, were told by Lloyds TSB that the bank could no longer carry out transactions involving Cuba. Phil Markey, relationship director at Lloyds TSB, told one client in a letter: "I would like to find a way to continue to make these payments for you - the decision, however, is down to a full risk assessment process within Lloyds TSB."
Other leading British banks have adopted a similar policy, although all are reluctant to talk about it. A spokesman for HSBC referred to a section of the company's annual report, which quotes the US Patriot Act, and states that: "The US state department has designated certain countries (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) as state sponsors of terrorism, and US law generally prohibits US persons from doing business with such countries. HSBC is aware of initiatives by governmental entities and institutions in the US to adopt rules, regulations or policies prohibiting transactions with, or investments in entities doing business with such countries." The bank was not prepared to comment further.
Last year, Barclays Bank told the London branches of two Cuban organisations to take their accounts elsewhere, even though the long-standing accounts held by Havana International Bank and Cubanacam, a state-owned travel organisation, were healthy.
The bank said yesterday: "Barclays, like any global financial institution, complies with the legal requirements which apply in the countries where we do business." The bank would not comment further. The Royal Bank of Scotland said yesterday: "We comply with sanctions in the jurisdictions in which we operate."
Only the Co-operative Bank appeared to indicate that it would process money to Cuban companies. The bank said that it had an ethical policy, which meant it could not handle accounts that had "links with an oppressive regime", but it could process transactions in such places if there were no links to either the regime or the military. It would not say whether Cuba was on the "oppressive regime" list.
The Cuban embassy criticised the latest moves by the banks. "In these new tactics the Bush administration has unscrupulously exploited the pre-eminent position of the United States in the world economy," it said. "It has been quietly working under the table at spreading the scare amongst the business and the banking communities, including in the UK."
Rob Miller, of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, said the banks were doing the US government's work for them. "No one in the US state department seriously believes that Cuba is involved in terrorism, yet it is a handy way for them to enforce what is a purely political embargo," he said. "The banks ... are the little bullies acting for the big bully."
The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform said yesterday: "We have no restrictions preventing US companies from trading with Cuba. It is a purely commercial matter for the companies involved."
CSC calls for action
TAKE ACTION AGAINST LLOYDS
Following the decision by Lloyds Bank to stop its business in
Cuba,customers are urged to write letters of protest to their bank.
Lloyds TSB Bank
25 Gresham Street
London, EC2V 7HN
Dear Mr Markey,
Lloyds TSB Bank and the blockade against Cuba
As a Lloyds TSB shareholder/customer I am writing to you to express my concern about recent media reports (Guardian dated 16th and 23rd June 2008) that the bank is directing businesses to stop dealing with Cuban firms or take their accounts elsewhere.
As you are a UK bank I would like you to clarify that you are in fact able to act in accordance with the stated aims of the British Government which encourages trade with Cuba and has a policy of positive engagement with the island.
As a shareholder /customer with Lloyds Bank I would also like you to clarify the following for me:
1. Can you confirm if these media reports are accurate or not ?
2. If they are accurate then I would like to know whether your actions are as a direct consequence of United States’ anti-Cuban legislation or whether you have other reasons for these actions ?
I look forward to your early response on this matter.
For briefings, model letters please email:
firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 8800 0155.