A FORMER bank trader who is being threatened with deportation to a country he left 34 years ago wants to be seen as human and not a “test-case”.
Kweku Adoboli, who now lives in Livingston, has been detained at the Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre, a “black hole” of a place. He was transported to the 19th century hunting lodge surrounded by wire fences in South Lanarkshire last Monday and remains there indefinitely.
The 38-year-old considers himself to be British after moving to Yorkshire at 12 years old to attend boarding school. He left Ghana at four with his parents. He said: “Citizenship isn’t defined by a piece of paper, it’s defined by your relationships and your contribution to society.”
In 2012 Kweku was jailed for two counts of fraud that resulted in losses of £1.4 billion for Swiss banking group UBS, spending four years in jail. Under strict immigration laws foreign nationals who are jailed for longer than four years are subject to automatic deportation unless they can argue there are compelling reasons for them to stay.
Since settling in Scotland, Kweku has been involved in teaching at several universities on banking reform and working with the Forward Institute which aims to promote responsible leadership.
Immigration lawyer Jacqueline McKenzie has worked tirelessly on Kweku’s case, preparing and presenting a 300-page dossier of arguments and evidence that he should remain in the UK. But Kweku is frightened. He spoke to the Evening News just minutes after being pulled in to another unscheduled meeting with a Home Office official.
He said: “They’re really ratcheting up the pressure. The impression I got from the conversation is they’re trying to speed this up to get me out of the country.”
He claims that he was threatened with being moved to other detention centres across the UK. He said: “I asked him, ‘why would you move me?’ My family is here. My girlfriend is here.”
Kweku moved to Scotland to live with friends from university following his release from prison in 2015. He is godfather to Pippa Scott and Roland Verhaaf’s two sons, who call him “My Kweku”. He misses them, and his five other godchildren, terribly.
He said: “Roland visited me near the end of my sentence and told me that he thought Scotland was the best place for me to live. He told me the people are really kind and that I would have a nice safe place to rebuild my life from. Turns out he was absolutely right.”
Kweku’s girlfriend of four months, Alice, travels from her Edinburgh home to Dungavel daily, a three-hour round trip. He tried to talk her out of coming, concerned about the toll it would take on her seeing him in such a “corrosive” environment. He said: “She’s incredible. Because of the intensity of this, we’ve become really close really fast. I want to be able to help her.”
He is waiting for a bail decision that determines his fate. He claims that officials have told him that if he doesn’t do what they ask of him, he’ll be seen as “non-compliant”. He said: “They want a reason to deny bail. I should not be here. I have served my time and I’ve been contributing to society for three years.
“Obviously that undermines the argument that it is in the public interest to deport me but that goes against the law.”
He feels he is being held up as an example: “Anyone else in this situation doesn’t have the ability to argue the public interest [point] like I can or has the support I do. I’ve become a test case and it’s a real shame. We’re on a knife-edge and if I’m deported it sets a precedent and if I’m not, it softens the position [of the law].”
Kweku has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support for him, not only from his “surrogate family” and friends, but from the more than 73,000 strangers who have signed a petition objecting to his deportation, and those who have contributed to a crowd-funded campaign to help finance his lengthy legal battle. He said: “It has been an incredible human response. I’ve been dumbfounded by it. This is what community is. This is what citizenship is. The government is bearing down on a human being and everyone goes, ‘Woah, not in my name. This is not what I voted for, this is not what I signed up for, let’s help this person’.
“So many people and so much energy has been given so graciously to this fight. When you’ve been thrown out of your community and that community turns around and says no. That is just astounding.”
Being held in Dungavel is much worse than being in prison, where at least he knew when he would be free. He said: “It’s like a black hole. It’s interminable – you don’t know when it’s going to end, you don’t know what they’re trying to do to you, there is no certainty. Everyone is walking around like zombies. People struggling to find their humanity but it’s being taken away by the state.”
“They never needed to put me here. They know I’ve been compliant the entire time. I’ve done everything they’ve asked me to.”
If Kweku is deported he would not be allowed to re-enter the country and could be barred from the rest of Europe and North America but he doesn’t let himself go to the worst case scenario. “You can’t”, he said. “It’s like saying you’re going to prepare for your own death –you can’t conceptualise it. What does it mean to be taken away from everything you know?”
In order to justify their decision, Kweku says, the Home Office has said that he presents a “high risk of harm to the UK public” but the risk assessments carried out on him by his probation officers and other prison officials categorised him as “very low risk”. He said: “They have evidence that shows I’m a very low risk of re-offending. How can you say I’m high risk when professionals are saying the opposite?”
He accepts full responsibilty for his past but insists that his actions needs to be viewed in their unique context: “What happened was highly contextual and down to the pressure of the role. It can never be replicated.” He claims he took responsibility for the trading scandal because no one else would and he pled not guilty to the charges so he could expose the dodgy dealings and growing fissures in the industry. He said: “If I pled guilty we would never be able to bring to light the reasons why it happened. We’d never be able to stop it from happening in the future and no-one would learn from it.”
The irony is, he says, had he taken the fall he would likely have received a much shorter sentence and wouldn’t be subject to the immigration law he’s now fighting.
Now he faces banishment from his home and the people he loves. He said: “It’s so frightening. It’s hard to put into words how frightening it is to be under this kind of pressure. I was brought up in the UK. I’m just a normal guy.”