LONDON, Aug 29 (Reuters) - Royal Bank of Scotland has decided to stop raising capital for Belarus due to concerns over the country’s political situation, the part-nationalised British bank said on Monday.
“Given sanctions, the deteriorating political situation in Belarus and the fact that it has reneged on key elements of the IMF programme, RBS has ceased any type of capital-raising for or on behalf of the Belarus Republic and we have no plans to change that position until these issues have been resolved,” RBS said in a statement.
“In assessing where we do business, we have a responsibility to consider a number of factors, including social and ethical issues and compliance with the letter and spirit of all international sanctions,” it added.
The “Free Belarus Now” and “Index on Censorship” organisations said they had helped influence RBS’s decision by highlighting concerns over human rights in Belarus to the bank, which is 83-percent owned by the British government after it was bailed out with taxpayers’ money during the credit crisis.
“The government of Belarus needs nearly $1 billion a month in foreign capital. RBS has sent a clear signal not to risk investing in a regime that violates fundamental human rights and may not last,” said Mike Harris of Index on Censorship.
Over the last year, RBS and other leading banks have been involved in raising money for Belarus, which has also received money from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
However, concern has grown over Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s crackdown on the political opposition in his country, resulting in countries such as the United States imposing sanctions.
Earlier this month, the United States introduced sanctions against four firms owned or controlled by a company linked to Lukashenko in response to his government’s crackdown on political opponents.
Lukashenko tolerates little dissent and has maintained power since 1994 through election victories which Washington considers illegitimate.
The sanctions come at a time when Belarus is struggling to overcome a balance-of-payments crisis that has forced it to devalue its rouble and allow price hikes that have angered consumers and led to a wave of protests. (Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by David Holmes)