Former Government Minister attacks Co-operative Bank

Campaign News | Friday, 13 May 2016

Former Government Minister attacks Co-operative Bank for undermining the Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and ‘serious damage’ caused to UK business interests

The Cooperative bank has been accused by a former Labour Minister of doing “serious damage” to the UK’s business relationship with Cuba and of undermining the recent visit by Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond.

Former Trade Minister, Brian Wilson, who has maintained close ties with Cuba over the past 18 years and is currently in Havana, said the Coop bank’s decision to close the account of the UK’s Cuba Solidarity Campaign had received “terrible publicity” in Cuba this week.

Mr Wilson said: “Although this happened last November, the story has flared up again because it was raised by the Cuban delegation to the United Nations as an example of how extra-territorial actions dictated by the United States are continuing to be implemented illegally.

“The Cubans cited the confirmation given by Niall Booker, chief executive of the Coop bank, that they closed the CSC accounts because they feared reprisals by the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)”.

Cuba maintains that such action is in breach of both British and EU law.

Mr Wilson said: “It is very difficult to explain to Cuban friends that the Cooperative bank is no longer a proud British institution but a busted flush which American hedge funds have bought on the cheap and has no interest in its ethical tradition”.

Reports of the Cuban statement at the United Nations, specifically naming the UK and the example of the Coop bank, have been heavily reported in the Cuban media this week.

Mr Wilson said: “Philip Hammond came here in good faith to build bridges with Cuba but that work is being undermined by banks and other companies living in fear of US reprisals, which are still very much alive.

“I hope the UK government will give the strongest possible signal of support for any British company which fears sanctions by the United States. This is a case of Washington acting as a global bully and the UK should not be seen as complicit in that behaviour”.

Mr Wilson is chairman of Havana Energy, which has secured a joint venture to develop biomass plants at five of Cuba’s sugar mills. While a Minister under Tony Blair, he worked to improve commercial relations between the UK and Cuba.


For more information on CSC's Co-op Bank closure, briefing papers, model letters for taking action and more, please click here

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