More blood money

Barclays, the slavery- and Apartheid-linked financial institution that paid Bruce Ratner $400 million for the naming rights to his Atlantic Yards arena, is bankrolling African strongman Robert Mugabe, the Sunday Times of London reported last week — prompting one Brooklyn leader to say “enough is enough” with the tarnished financial powerhouse.

The Times report that Barclays is “bankrolling Mugabe’s corrupt regime in Zimbabwe by providing substantial loans to cronies given land seized from white farmers” had Brooklyn’s black leaders seething. Such agricultural policies have led to widespread hunger in the country.

“The apparent connection between Barclays and the Mugabe regime is deeply troubling,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries (D–Fort Greene). “It provides another example of Barclays doing business either with a regime that has a questionable human rights record or in support of institutions connected to the oppression of people of color.”

The Times report said that Barclays has lent $1.1 billion to the landowning elite in Zimbabwe, possibly including five Mugabe ministers whom the European Union has sanctioned.

“Barclays is giving money to this regime and propping it up in an opaque process,” Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change, told The Times, which also reported that Barclays is one of the few banks still active in Zimbabwe.

In fact, it is actually opening new branches there.

Meanwhile, in Brooklyn, black leaders continued to condemn Forest City Ratner’s deal with Barclays, which will emblazon the bank’s tarnished name onto one of the most important and iconic new structures in a borough known for its diversity and tolerance.

“We now have the possibility that Barclays was involved with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the Nazi regime in France, South African Apartheid and Mugabe’s brutal regime,” said Jeffries. “At some point, the decent people of Brooklyn will rise up and say, ‘Enough is enough!’ This is not the right direction for us to go in with respect to this project.”

Councilwoman Letitia James (D–Fort Greene) echoed Jeffries’s sentiments.

“It is still my position that Barclays represents blood money, and is the fruit of ill-gotten gain,” she said.

In a statement, Barclays spokesman Peter Truell defended the bank’s record.

“Barclays has been in Zimbabwe since 1912, and has 1,000 employees and a network of 20 branches serving 150,000 retail, business and corporate customers in the country,” said Truell. “We are committed to continuing to provide a service to those customers in what is clearly a difficult operating environment. We are also committed to the welfare of our employees.”

Forest City Ratner did not respond to a request for comment.

Mugabe’s record is one of repression and “state-sponsored violence and torture,” according to Amnesty International.

“Two years after an estimated 700,000 people lost their homes or livelihood or both … the government has failed to provide an effective remedy to the victims,” the Amnesty International statement added.

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