Cluster Bomb Trade Funded by World's Biggest Banks

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Cluster Bomb Trade Funded by World's Biggest Banks

HSBC earned more than £650m in fees from work for Textron, US manufacturer of cluster weapons

by
Nick Mathiason

The deadly trade in cluster bombs
is funded by the world's biggest banks who have loaned or arranged
finance worth $20bn (£12.5bn) to firms producing the controversial
weapons, despite growing international efforts to ban them.

HSBC,
led by ordained Anglican priest Stephen Green, has profited more than
any other institution from companies that manufacture cluster bombs.
The British bank, based at Canary Wharf, has earned a total of £657.3m
in fees arranging bonds and share offerings for Textron, which makes
cluster munitions described by the US company as "leaving a clean
battlefield".

Campaigners maintain the deadly weapons can explode years after combat, killing or maiming innocent people.

HSBC will face protests outside its London headquarters today. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan and UK-based Barclays
Bank are also named among the worst banks in a detailed 126-page report
by Dutch and Belgian campaign groups IKV Pax Christi and Netwerk
Vlaanderen.

Goldman Sachs, the US bank which made £3.19bn proft
in just three months, earned $588.82m for bank services and lent $250m
to Alliant Techsystems and Textron.

Of the banks named, only
Barclays was prepared to comment. It said: "Barclays group provides
financial services to the defence sector within a specific policy
framework. It is our policy not to finance trade in nuclear, chemical,
biological or other weapons of mass destruction.

"Our policy also
explicitly prohibits financing trade in landmines, cluster bombs or any
equipment designed to be used as an instrument of torture." A
spokeswoman added that Barclays had supplied money to Textron, which
makes cluster bombs, but that the US firm was a broad-based weapons
manufacturer.

Last December 90 countries, including the UK,
committed themselves to banning cluster bombs by next year. But the US
was not one of them. So far 23 countries have ratified the convention.
The UK has yet to do so, but the Foreign Office confirmed that it would
form part of the government's legislative programme before the next
election.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the tightest export
control order had been placed on cluster bombs, which extended to banks
supplying money to manufacturers. The government was aware the control
order was not working and "is working on it".

Esther
Vandenbroucke, of Netwerk Vlaanderen and one of the report's authors,
said: "The responsibility to ban cluster munitions is a shared
responsibility. It requires courage, and it requires an effort. We are
just months away from an international treaty entering into force and
it is time for signatory states to the Convention on Cluster Munitions
for non-signatory states and for financial institutions to act now."

Last
December, the New Zealand government's pension fund sold shares in
Lockheed Martin because of its link to the manufacture of cluster
bombs. Similar actions have been taken by the Irish and Dutch
governments.

Millions of people will be endangered by up to tens
of millions of cluster bomblets that have not yet exploded, causing
lasting economic and social harm to communities in more than 20
countries for decades to come, campaigners have warned. The vast
majority of cluster bomb casualties occur while victims are carrying on
their daily lives.

On Monday, a Lebanese 20-year-old man had his
leg amputated after a cluster bomb exploded in southern Lebanon Houla
village. A security source said he was collecting wood in his border
village when the explosion occurred.

The Israeli army made
extensisve use of cluster bombs during the war in south Lebanon three
years ago. Cluster bombs were most recently used by both the Georgians
and the Russians in the dispute over South Ossetia. They were also used
in the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions.

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