Yesterday’s Parliamentary debate into RBS’ long-running scheme to bankrupt hundreds of business owners via its Global Restructuring Group was postponed after an “emergency debate” was called on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Sure, it’s selling arms to Saudi Arabia which is using those arms to murder, oppress and starve the Yemeni people, but there’s one surefire way to get the British Government to take foreign diplomacy seriously: threaten them with a banking inquiry. 

Illustration by Rachael Bolton

The House of Commons yesterday delayed a debate on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) treatment of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) when an emergency meeting on Yemen was called.

Number 10 Downing Street has never been more relieved for a diplomatic crisis – especially one that it is central to.

Over the last 18 months, reporting by journalist Ian Fraser and others have revealed that RBS has been using duplicity and deception to force hundreds of business owners into bankruptcy via its Global Restructuring Group (GRG) for the sole purpose of shoring up its balance sheet.

Yesterday’s debate was likely to reveal the government’s complicity in the RBS’ long-running bankruptcy scheme. A leaked spreadsheet revealed GRG’s forced-bankruptcy strategy is earning the Group £89,000 per minute in balance sheet improvements. RBS is a majority tax-payer owned bank that was already been bailed out in 2013 to the tune of £45.5 billion.

To say that there is a public interest in this long-overdue inquiry would be an understatement.

Cash cows

Renegade Inc. has spoken to more than 25 business owners who have lost everything – including their homes – after RBS banking account managers sold their clients on loan restructuring agreements on the grounds they’d get a better deal. In at least four situations, the surprise bankruptcies and the bullying and intimidation that accompanied these actions, resulted in suicides.

After decades of irresponsible, unethical, and in some cases – illegal – derivatives trading on Wall Street, RBS had to find a way to make money to cover its losses. A decision was taken to use compromised SME customers as a cash cow. By pushing these businesses to the wall, the Global Restructuring Group became one of RBS’ biggest profit centres.

Serendipity or strategy?

Curiously, minutes before the Commons debate-that-wasn’t was due to start, RBS announced it had closed its so-called “bad bank”, which was created to handle the bank’s toxic assets leftover from the 2008 Global Financial Crisis.

Neil Mitchell, former CEO of Torex Retail turn RBS campaigner, described the delay as a “US style Phyllybuster”.

“This was a cynical move by Number 10 and the Treasury to shorten or delay the BackBench Business Committee Debate on RBS’ criminal atrocities committed against British Businesses from 1992-2017,” he tweeted.

RBS’ Head of Public Affairs, Chris Maguire, was seen “stalking the corridors” of the House of Commons. Some are speculating he was involved in securing the delay. “If he was, his strategy was showing,” said one victim. What is certain: the delay is unlikely to have tested the resolve of those who have been disadvantaged by RBS’ fraud scheme. Many travelled to listen to and participate in the debate and will now have to make an additional trip to Parliament in January. A date has yet to be announced.

A source familiar with the inquiry told Renegade Inc. that the government was “trying to kick RBS into the long-grass by talking Yemen out until the end of the day.

“Or, ‘how to get Parliament to take foreign diplomacy seriously: threaten it with a banking inquiry.'”

Pothole Action Fund

Other issues which took precedence over RBS’ alleged bank fraud: Time was set aside to discuss whether or not US President, Donald Trump should be required to delete his Twitter account. And a further two-hours was spent debating Britain’s public transport and the Federal Government’s “Pothole Action Fund“.

Meanwhile, the US and UK are complicit in the worst humanitarian crisis in living history and have been instrumental in Saudi Arabia’s illegal war against Yemen’s Houthi rebels. More than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed. More than 900,000 people have been infected by the cholera epidemic. Millions more have been displaced, according to the UN. Having imposed a near total blockade on the country which depends on imports for survival, Yemen is in the grip of starvation, with no water, food or medical aid allowed to pass through its borders.

Though Saudi Arabia yesterday announced it would lift the blockade on Yemen, the country is still in crisis. Despite Theresa May’s visit to Saudi Arabia where it is claimed Yemen was discussed, it appears the British government has no intention to stop arming Saudi Arabia. Yesterday’s debate made clear that the Saudis have used British weapons on the Yemeni people. As of this year, British arms sales to Saudi Arabia have topped £1.1 billion .

Theresa May threatened to end her government’s arms sales to the region if Saudi Arabia wouldn’t end its blockade. Just kidding. She really didn’t.

Selling and dodging bullets…

The government refused to be drawn on whether any export licenses were granted for the sale of arms to the Saudi-led coalition during its three-week illegal blockade.

Conservative MP, the RT Hon Andrew Mitchell said during the exchange that he “steered away” from a debate on a British arms embargo “because I think it would have taken our eye off the critical ball,” he said.

So. A three-hour debate on Yemen with lots of hand-wringing, and gnashing of teeth. But in the end, like the RBS / GRG war, the result was zero promises, no new information, and almost zero action.

But at least it dodged a banking bullet. For now.

Claire Connelly

Claire Connelly

Claire Connelly is the editor-in-chief of Renegade Inc. An award-winning freelance journalist,speaker, and founder of subscription journalism experiment, Hello Humans. https://www.patreon.com/claireconnelly

Specialising in economics, technology and policy, Connelly is working on her first book due out in 2018.

With more than a decade of experience under her belt, Claire has written for leading publications including The Australian Financial Review, The Saturday Paper, ABC, SBS, Crikey, New Matilda, VICE & others. She is the co-host of The Week In Start-Ups Australia, and features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio shows including Radio National's Download This Show, ABC's The Drum, Ten's The Project, and more.
Claire Connelly

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