Hiding Africa’s looted funds: Silence of Western media

by Lord Aikins Adusei

Niger-Delta-oil-pipelines-woman-dries-clothes-Port-Harcourt-100706-by-AP, Hiding Africa’s looted funds: Silence of Western media, World News & Views 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 watchdog of the state.

It is not uncommon to see poverty stricken Africans in poor living conditions being shown in documentaries and movies and on television screens in the West but the same documentaries and movies are always silent on the role played 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 or official favor or to induce officials to influence the outcome of a government decision. In other instances people become corrupt because of the existence of favoring 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 they like to show the poverty level in Africa but refuse to show the role played by the Western banking, property and multinational corporations is the fear of losing revenue through advertising. Many of the media outlets survive through advertisements from the property, banking and multinational corporations so why would they want to incur their wrath?

Another reason is that the editors, program directors and the other big shots in the media are themselves shareholders of these banks and property companies, so why would they want to jeopardize 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 is nothing like 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 un-Western?

Corruption is rife in Africa because there are banking institutions in Europe – especially Switzerland, France, Jersey Island, Britain, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Austria, U.S. and many others – who accept money from African leaders without questioning the source of the money. According to the U.N., 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.

Corruption is rife in Africa because there are banking institutions in Europe who accept money from African leaders without questioning the source of the money.

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.

Within five years of his reign (1993-98), Sani Abacha of Nigeria, according to official figures, was able to stash $4 billion – or $12-$16 billion in unofficial terms. After his death in 1998, investigators in Nigeria, Europe and America stumbled on over 130 bank accounts abroad where some of the stolen money 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 Co., London; Bankers Trust Co., Frankfurt; Bankers Trust Co., New York; Banque Barring Brothers, Geneva; Bank in Liechtenstein A.G. Vaduz; Barclays Bank, New York; Barclays Bank, London; Banque Edouard Constant, Geneva; 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, Geneva; Credit Suisse, Zurich; Deutche Morgan Grenfell, Jersey; FIBI Bank (Schweiz) A.G. Zurich; First Bank of Boston, London; Goldman Sachs and Co., Zurich; Gothard Bank, Geneva; LGT Liechtenstein Bank, Vaduz; Liechtenstein Landesbank, Vaduz; M.M. Warburg and Co., Luxembourg; M.M. Warburg and Co., Zurich; M.M. Warburg and Co., Hamburg; Merrill Lynch Bank, New York; Merrill Lynch Bank, Geneva; Midland Bank, London; National Westminster Bank, London; Paribus, London; Paribus, Geneva; Royal Bank of Scotland, Leeds; Standard Bank London Ltd., London; UBS AG, Zurich; UBS AG, Geneva; Union Bancaire Privee, Geneva; Union Bancaire Privee, London; Verwaltungs Und Private Bank A.G., Vaduz; ANZ, New York; and ANZ, Frankfurt. (Source: Tell Magazine, Oct. 7, 2002)

In February 2009, a French court had Omar Bongo’s nine 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 profit’s 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; then 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 late 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.

The banks know these corrupt leaders have stolen the money yet they pretend not to know until there is a scandal; then they begin to act as if they are responsible institutions.

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 has 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 the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) bought villas in France, Switzerland, Belgium and many other European countries. Yet again the companies selling the villas have been kept secret. They will not be exposed by the media. Why would they?

According to Agence France Press, 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. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been spotted greeting Bongo in this villa bought with funds looted from Gabon. However, other investigations have uncovered that Gabon’s Bongo and his family have at least 59 properties plus several stocks and bonds 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 and a 10,000-hectare ranch in Australia and has bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of pounds. While the majority of Kenyans live in slums and in rural areas with barely a roof over their heads and lack water and other basic necessities of life, Moi’s family live in a £4 million home in Surrey and £2 million flat in Knightsbridge. Yet the media will not expose the real estate companies involved.

Another area often ignored by the Western media is the role played 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 Sept. 17, 2002, a Canadian firm called Acres International was convicted by the High Court in Lesotho for paying a $260,000 bribe to secure an $8 billion dam contract. In 2002 Halliburton, a company once controlled by former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, was accused of establishing a $180 million slush fund with the intent of using it to bribe Nigerian 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 and Anglo-America Corp. in Nigeria, Ghana, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Congo, DR Congo, South Africa, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and 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’s 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 also hear about their complete disregard for environmental rules and for the pollution of rivers, lakes, streams, wells and the entire environment?

How often do we hear about the huge environmental price Africans are paying to satisfy the West’s insatiable appetite for energy and technology?

In October 2002, after a three-year investigation, a U.N. panel of experts implicated Cabot Corp. of Boston, Eagle Wings Resources International and George Forrest’s OM Group of Ohio for arming rebel groups and collaborating with them to traffic from DR Congo its 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 for the wars and the faces of stranded, 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.

This is 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, defense companies and defense 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 its pick-and-choose journalism and attach the same importance to showing the degree of involvement by Western capitalist institutions in Europe, America and Japan and their role in keeping Africans poor.

Lord Aikins Adusei is a columnist for ModernGhana.com, where this story first appeared. He can be reached there or through his website, http://www.lordadusei.blogspot.com/.