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Wealth manager Brewin Dolphin hit by restructuring costs

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Capital Markets, Financial

BGC Partners eyes new platform to trade US Treasuries

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RBS share drop accelerates on stress test flop

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Categorized | Banks, Financial

BNP fine cheers human rights campaigners

Posted on June 30, 2014

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir©Reuters

Omar al-Bashir at the African Union summit

On the day the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Sudan president Omar al-Bashir’s arrest for genocide in 2009, human rights lawyer Ali Agab fled the country. Security forces first closed down his organisation; then they came looking for him.

Today, as BNP Paribas pays a record $8.9bn penalty for conducting business with Sudan and other countries subject to sanctions, he is celebrating.

    “I am so happy to know about this fine,” says Mr Agab, now living in asylum in the UK.

    “It’s very harmful and sad to know that those people who are enjoying democracy are using all means to support a regime like this and commit international crime,” he adds: “I think it will have an impact on Sudan because it plays a deterrent to other governments in Europe that are still supporting Sudan.”

    Mr Bashir was indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity dating back to 2003, but he first came to power in Khartoum in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989.

    The US levied sanctions in 1997 over Sudan’s support for terrorism and human rights abuses, initiating a trade embargo and freeze on government assets. Sudan hosted Osama bin Laden in the early 1990s before it expelled him, and has since co-operated with the US from time to time by sharing intelligence about subsequent Islamist jihadi threats in the wake of September 11.

    But in the course of Sudan’s 10-year oil boom throughout the first decade of this century, experts estimate its petrodollars amounted to $80bn for the country and its backers. Much of this was directed to Khartoum’s fearsome security apparatus, which today sucks up as much as 80 per cent of spending.

    “This oil money, gained illegally, allowed the regime to stay in power and to commit more crimes against its own people, to kill its own people,” says Mr Agab.

    Mr Bashir today fights a war on three fronts and human rights group Waging Peace says he continues to prosecute the world’s longest-running genocide, in Darfur.

    “There is extraordinary bombing with complete impunity, there’s no other country that is indiscriminately killing its own civilians with air power [for so long and without intervention],” says Olivia Warham, director of Waging Peace, adding that a Darfur hospital was bombed only this year.

    “The level of torture and intimidation, lack of freedom of expression, lack of political space has been consistently high throughout the last decade. [Mr Bashir] has been doing all of this with the world turning a blind eye; financed by people who are breaking sanctions. The oil money helped to sustain his regime throughout all that time.”

    Ms Warham congratulated the US for following through on its commitment to sanctions with political will, saying many other countries including the UK rely only on the occasional tough word to little effect.

    Campaigners say the US, UK and others should also ban exports from Sudan of both gold and gum Arabic, which continue to help keep afloat the ailing economy – and a regime facing political, diplomatic and economic pressure.

    Still in power, Mr Bashir is one of Africa’s longest ruling leaders. Last year, his forces shot dead more than 200 people on the streets of Khartoum, the first time the state’s brutality was exposed so explicitly to a shocked capital more used to hearing of wars in the margins.

    But his ability to mete out heavy food and fuel subsidies and keep patronage networks in cash, funded mostly by crude oil exports, helps him avert economic catastrophe and further cracks to his regime.