Bidco Africa has said the protesters that picketed outside Standard Chartered and Barclays Banks in London on Tuesday are con artists trying to blackmail the company. It said that it has been fighting an anonymous and faceless group of online con artists masquerading as activists for over a year.
The group has been harassing the company and its partners on social media and via email. It has also been staging fake protests in various locations.
“These guys are just bodies for hire. If you watch the video the incredible thing is they cannot even get the company name right. They are protesting against ‘Bisco’ and ‘Vamil Shah’, that tells you all you need to know about these people,”
Bidco Africa CEO Vimal Shah explained.
He added that at one point they asked for $500,000 to stop the harassment but they declined.
“There is no activism here. We know who is behind it and what they hope the pressure will lead to but we will not buckle. We will not give in to extortion.
KEPSA, the apex private sector body in Kenya received emails from the group but when they invited them to present evidence-no one showed up. KEPSA CEO Carole Kariuki added that they asked them to come forward and prove their claims but have heard nothing from them since.
The protesters took to the streets of London to demonstrate against banks that do business with Bidco Africa, highlighting the connection between global financial institutions, The Prince of Wales and widespread deforestation in Africa. They claimed that Bidco Africa cuts down thousands of acres of pristine rainforest in Uganda, and engages in human rights and tax violations in Kenya and Tanzania.
Calling themselves Bidco Truth Coalition, they made the decision to picket in London because Bidco has publicly stated that it does business with Barclays, Standard Chartered, Citibank, Equity Bank and Kenya Commercial Bank
The coalition added that that the Banking Environment Initiative (BEI), based at Cambridge University’s Institute for Sustainability Leadership under the patronage of The Prince of Wales, is failing in its mission to lead the banking industry in collectively directing capital towards environmentally and socially sustainable economic development.
The BEI’s nine member banks are Barclays, Standard Chartered, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Lloyds, Northern Trust, RBS, Santander and Westpac.
Bidco Africa insists the claims made by so called activists are outright lies and distortion of facts. The claims of deforestation are manifestly untrue.
“No forests were taken in Uganda, there have been four independent Environmental Impact Assessments done and they all give the project a clean bill of health. On the question of land, out of 9000 hectares acquired for the project, there is only one dispute with one farmer who was a squatter on someone’s land and the case is in court,”
said Kodey Rao the Bidco Uganda Managing Director says. Bidco further explained that the Uganda unit has different ownership and management from its Kenyan counterpart.)
“1750 farmers earned Ush1.5 billion last month. I wish someone could talk about that and how their lives have changed, the houses they have built, the cars they have bought and how they are taking their children to private universities.”
Vimal Shah added that the allegations of tax evasion the most saddening.
“We are a proudly Kenyan company. We gladly pay on average about $70M a year in taxes and just because we have one dispute over the computation of one tax bill we are bad guys. The case is in court, why not let the courts decide?”