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Tue 5 Jan 2016 11:52 AM

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London mayor urged to withdraw $147m from Saudi-backed bank

Opposition parties are calling for the UK capital to take a stand against Saudi Arabia’s recent execution of 47 people on one day

London mayor urged to withdraw $147m from Saudi-backed bank
London Mayor Boris Johnson

The mayor of London has reportedly been urged to withdraw £100 million ($147m) of public money invested in a bank backed by Saudi Arabia, in a move designed to take a stand against the kingdom’s recent execution of 47 people in one day.

The £100 million invested in Riyad Bank, 51 percent owned by the Saudi state, is part of the Greater London Authority’s £2.5 billion portfolio of investments in a range of foreign banks, according to The Guardian.

But opposition parties have called for London to distance itself from the Saudi regime. Their comments echo calls made by federal opposition parties for a public inquiry into the UK’s involvement in an alleged secret voting scheme that saw Saudi Arabia, as well as the UK, elected to the UN Human Rights Council in November 2013.

London’s Liberal Democrat leader, Tim Farron, called on Mayor Boris Johnson – who personally approves the investment strategy - to pledge never to invest public money in regimes that do not support human rights, saying “words are not enough”, The Guardian reported.

“Investing Londoners’ funds into Saudi government-backed banks seems to suggest Boris and his administration condone the horrific and systematic human rights abuses committed in the kingdom,” Farron was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“Investing in such places goes against everything London stands for. Profit should never come before principle.”

A GLA spokesperson reportedly said the fund could not invest based on politics.

“[The authority] has a duty to ensure its short-term cash balances are invested with an aim of minimising the risks of any loss to the taxpayer. Those investments are made by officials in the group treasury team, without political involvement and targeting high-quality and creditworthy institutions,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

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