Six years to the month since he was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court, Kweku Adoboli – the man responsible for the biggest unauthorised trading loss in UK history – is travelling along Ghana’s coast towards an idyllic seaside retreat known for its turtles and palm trees.
Adoboli’s journey, however, has been far from leisurely. Earlier this month he was deported as part of the Home Office’s policy of removing former offenders deemed to be foreign nationals.
“I need to recover, I’m just a bit broken. The idea is I need to get away from everything, to have a proper rest,” Adoboli tells City A.M. during a wide-ranging interview.
“This process is so destructive to your self-esteem. The entire rehabilitation process is about rebuilding. You pay your dues, you’re supposed to rehabilitate, and that process is also about rebuilding – to rebuild you have to rebuild your self-esteem. And when you’re under the cosh of the Home Office, the Home Office is trying to crush your self-esteem so that you don’t have the capability to argue why you are of value to the nation and why you shouldn’t be deported.”
Adoboli’s case rocked the City when he was arrested in 2011, around eight years after joining Swiss banking giant UBS. In the wake of the financial crisis he lost the bank £1.8bn and was found guilty in 2012 of two counts of fraud. A former star trader, Adoboli was sentenced to seven years in jail, but released early in 2015.
“I came to the UK in 1992, and for me it was a very open minded, very progressive place, and [as for] the City – I hope it still is. The City at the time that I was there was this outward looking, very diverse, forward looking, ambitious place, and we truly believed that what we were doing was, rightly or wrongly, for the good of the public interest,” Adoboli says.
“In hindsight, perhaps a bit more introspection would have been helpful for all of us.”
Despite harbouring some positive memories of the Square Mile, Adoboli gives short shrift to any suggestion he could return to a trading terminal.
“Let’s be absolutely clear – I don’t want to be a trader. I can’t think of anything more stifling than becoming a trader again… A desk job, as a trader, doing deals or building products in the frontier Ghana market? I don’t think that’s happening!” he laughs.
The 38-year-old is most animated when discussing the politics surrounding his deportation, and his immediate plans centre around a determination to change the law.
At the time of writing, the Home Office is on the verge of deporting another high profile ex-offender – Hilary Ineomo-Marcus, a man who, like Adoboli, grew up in the UK. A south Londoner who was jailed for tax offences, Ineomo-Marcus is being removed from his British wife and children. He could be deported to Nigeria as soon as today.
“Hilary’s about to be put on a plane – there should be uproar against it, the fact that a young family’s going to get broken up,” says Adoboli, who knows Ineomo-Marcus through a mutual friend.
“The reason that he has a young family is because he is British and he is fully integrated in British society, and to take him away from that family is just is abhorrent, it’s unacceptable, unconscionable.
“We need a change in policy to ensure this doesn’t happen going forward.”
The change in policy is known by campaigners as the Shaw amendment. They cite a government-commissioned report published earlier this year by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw.
Shaw wrote: “I find the policy of removing individuals brought up here from infancy to be deeply troubling.
“For low-risk offenders, it seems entirely disproportionate to tear them away from their lives, families and friends in the UK, and send them to countries where they may not speak the language or have any ties.”
The sentiment has gathered traction, with nearly 100 MPs signing a letter opposing Adoboli’s deportation and the Home Office attracting further criticism for its treatment of Ineomo-Marcus.
“This story isn’t about me, it really isn’t... it’s about something much wider,” says Adoboli, who moved to the UK when he was 12 and went to school in Yorkshire.
“I have two goals. One is that I have to campaign for the Shaw amendment. It’s a responsibility because of what I’ve seen and learned. The main thing we’ve got to achieve as a campaign is a change in the law that basically says that if you’re born or brought up in the UK from a young age, the Home Office shouldn’t be able to deport you regardless – because you’re British even if you don’t have the paperwork.”
As for the second goal, he adds: “If on the back of it, somehow, a legal avenue opens or the change in law means that I can apply to return to the UK then I would be super-grateful to be able to come back to the UK. But I know that’s going to take a long time and in the meantime I’ve got to try my best to make the most of being here [in Ghana], and to settle, and to build from here.”
Adoboli is impressed with the country he left as a four-year-old, marvelling at its economic development in recent years. “There’s a lot of support from a lot of people, and I’m really grateful for that,” he says, sounding slightly embarrassed at the number of people who recognised him on Accra’s streets.
“I guess it’s a big thing here, so a lot of people recognise me.”
The warm welcome has not, however, reduced the intensity of his feelings towards the Whitehall department responsible for sending him to Ghana.
“The Home Office is a rogue institution,” he says.
“People need to understand that it is a violent process, it is an example of state violence. If you can imagine what’s going on internally when you’re being physically moved from your family and friends and you’re being put on a plane and transported half-way around the world… it is a traumatic process that leaves you broken and it requires so much work to fix yourself afterwards and no one should have to go through that.”
The Ghana-born son of a diplomat, turned Yorkshireman, turned City star, turned rogue trader, Adoboli finds himself embarking on a new chapter as a political activist determined to influence Westminster from 3,000 miles away on the Gulf of Guinea. Adoboli “still has positive aspirations for the UK”, he says.
“And I still think of it as home, absolutely.”