Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas have agreed not to conduct any further deals with the government of Belarus after they were publicly shamed over their business dealings with the authoritarian regime.
The German and French banks, two of Europe’s largest financial institutions, were part of a syndicate alongside the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Russia’s Sberbank which agreed to sell £1.2bn in Belarusian bonds in two separate deals in October last year and January.
The second deal was particularly controversial because it came a month after President Alyaksandr Lukashenko ordered the repression of pro-democracy campaigners with mass arrests, beatings and widespread allegations of torture. Over the past 10 months hundreds of opposition activists have been arrested and many of those who stood against Lukashenka in December’s disputed elections have since been thrown in jail after show trials condemned by international observers.
In August The Independent reported that RBS had pulled out of future investments with the Belarusian government after senior executives were confronted by dissidents. Now Deutsche Bank and BNP Paribas have followed suit.
Activists from Free Belarus Now and Index on Censorship met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Warsaw this month. Irina Bogdanova, sister of the imprisoned presidential candidate Andrei Sannikau – described by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience – said the German head of state promised to call the bank.
«I told her [Merkel] that Deutsche Bank’s investments are doing nothing to help the Belarusian people,» Ms Bogdanova told The Independent.
«I explained that these are investments in a repressive dictatorship. It’s like paying for the weapons of repression. She said she agreed and would take it up with the bank.»
Deutsche Bank, which was «not aware of any communication from Ms Merkel’s office», said it would no longer invest in the government.