Kweku Adoboli served his time for white-collar crime in the UK. The last time we caught up with him, he was being pursued for deportation by the Home Office.
Under the Hostile Environment Policy, the then-home secretary decided that although he’d served his time – and lived in the UK for the majority of his life – he was to be deported to his native Ghana.
Almost two years on, host Ross Ashcroft catches up with him to talk about debt, deportation and economic depressions.
When host Ross Ashcroft last spoke with Kweku, the British authorities were working towards what became the former traders final hearing in his deportation case. But instead of a hearing intended to determine whether or not Adoboli would be granted permission to bring a judicial review, what transpired was a procedural rejection by the judge into Adoboli’s claim to remain in the UK. The judge stated that Kweku was a danger to the community and recommended that he be deported to Ghana without further delay.
One of the key mitigating factors to emerge since the judgement, has been Adoboli’s rebuking of the racist assumption that crimes committed by the ‘other’ is concomitant to the host nation being threatened. Not only has Kweku spent most of his life in the UK and considers himself to be British, but his subsequent commitment to value-added causes would indicate that he is an asset to society not a danger.
The judge’s gross mischaracterization of Adoboli fed into the toxic anti-immigration narrative that existed at the time. In 2017, the former UBS trader took his case to the Court of Appeal but his appeal was rejected. The decision by Number 10 to revoke the deportation order was clearly a politically-motivated one premised on three factors – Brexit, the populist rightward shift towards anti-immigration policies and maintaining the Conservative governments image of being tough on crime and the causes of crime.
The then Home Secretary, Theresa May, also oversaw a hostile environment policy which she couldn’t be seen to be rowing back from. The aim was to engender fear and anger in the public’s mind. Adoboli was at the centre of these political shenanigans. By recognizing the excess risks the UK government strategy represented, Adoboli sign-posted the global institutions towards demands for change.
The former traders story highlights that the broader changes required, encapsulate the experiences of the wind rush generation of workers who were shunned by the capitalist system the moment they became ‘unproductive’.
Narrative manipulation is key to maintaining an inherently unstable system:
“Ultimately, what’s happened is after 400 years of narrative manipulation where capitalism was built literally on the backs of black and brown bodies, labour was converted by force into capital value”, says Adoboli.
This racially-motivated narrative manipulation agenda was intrinsic to Kweku’s case. Sajid Javid, who succeeded Theresa May as Home Secretary, inadvertently conceded as much: “The public expects robust action to be taken against foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality”, said Javid.
Having been at the coalface of the system during the pre-virus era has meant that Kweku’s deportation has given him the space to reflect on the global economy as it is now. The former UBS trader argues that the financial tools used in the previous crisis have not been sufficient to offset the damage caused by a system which has inequity built into it.
Although pre-virus there was a failure by society to make the differentiation between the real economy and the speculative economy, the current virus situation would appear to have resulted in a recognition that the financial markets are designed to extract value from the real economy.
Kweku’s deportation to Ghana has opened his eyes to the fact that extraction, through the use of project financing, is happening at its fastest pace on the African continent.
Jason Hickel, in his book, The Divide, talks about how this process, embodied in ‘trickle up’ economics, is indicative of the global north’s exploitation of the global south and the resulting structural poverty that has ensued.
Adoboli argues that this situation is unlikely to continue in the foreseeable future:
“There is a generation of African and black diaspora people who are now recognising the importance of filling the structural gaps that allow this extraction to persist”, he says.
The problem is that the extractive industries continue to hold incredible sway. Corporations have captured governments and make all sorts of noises about equality, fairness and transparency. Many of the people pulling statues down across the UK and the US are wearing clothes made by corporates that use child slavery.
One of the key features of capitalism since its inception, has been its ability to be creative and flexible about incorporating and co-opting new dilemmas and anxieties.
But Adoboli doesn’t believe that corporations can get away with paying this kind of lip service indefinitely. The former trader cites the decision by Netflix to shift 100 million dollars into black-owned banks as an illustration of how the transfer of wealth from those who have benefitted the most from the system to those who have benefitted the least, is already happening.
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