Belfast Telegraph

Royal Bank of Scotland faces criticism as it halts deals with Belarus

By Jerome Taylor

The Royal Bank of Scotland faces more damaging revelations about its ethical record after it emerged that the bank was part of a deal to issue more than $800m (£489m) in Belarusian government bonds earlier this year, a month after the country's leader, Alexander Lukashenko, ordered the brutal repression of pro-democracy campaigners.

The majority state-owned bank has now agreed to abandon doing any more deals with Mr Lukashenko after it was shamed by dissidents over its role in organising the bond issue, it can be revealed.

While many international enterprises refuse to invest in the country and its repressive regime, RBS became involved in January this year, alongside the Russian bank Sberbank, BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank.

At the time, hundreds of people had just been arrested by Mr Lukashenko's KGB secret police and allegations of torture were widespread and credible.

RBS has also recently come under fire for continuing to invest in American arms manufacturers that make cluster bombs.

In Belarus, hundreds of opposition activists were arrested and many of those who stood against Mr Lukashenko in last December's disputed elections have since been jailed after a series of show trials that have been condemned by international observers.

RBS is the only British bank to have recently done financial deals directly with the Belarusian government. The revelation is embarrassing as it comes at a time of growing concern over the bank's ethical investment record.

Mike Harris, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship, said: "This couldn't come at a more crucial time. RBS has sent a clear signal not to risk investing in a regime that violates fundamental human rights."

Belfast Telegraph

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