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MPs move to outlaw Vulture Funds

Greg Palast 

By Meirion Jones
BBC Newsnight

Former UK ministers and MPs from all UK parties are set to back a bill later on Wednesday outlawing the activities of vulture funds, hedge funds which divert debt relief from the poorest countries into their own pockets.

goldfingersheehanThe bill singles out Donegal International and its boss Michael “Goldfinger” Sheehan who was exposed by Newsnight reporter Greg Palast for making a fortune out of Zambia’s debt.

Vulture funds have been condemned by governments around the world as perverse and immoral for preying on the world’s poor.

Developed countries including Britain and the US have spent billions of pounds trying to relieve the debts of the world’s poorest nations so that they can spend that money on health and education.

The vulture fund speculators effectively divert that debt relief to themselves by buying debt for pennies in the pound just as it is about to be written off, and then suing in British or US courts for the full value plus interest.

US outrage

In 2007, Newsnight exposed the activities of Donegal International which bought a tranche of Zambia’s debt for $3m and then sued for $55m – the size of Zambia’s health budget.

Reporter Greg Palast doorstepped Donegal’s boss Michael “Goldfinger” Sheehan who styles himself after the James Bond villain.

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Palast Hunts the Real Life Goldfinger for BBC – Watch it on Democracy Now!

Greg Palast 

“Vulture Fund” Company Wins $20 Million Payment from Zambia on $4 Million Debt
Thursday, February 15th, 2007

Watch the BBC Newsnight investigative report on BBC Newsnight — or at Democracy Now! with Palast and Amy Goodman.

ListenWatchRead the ReportRead the Transcipt
“Vulture fund” companies buy up the debt of poor countries at cheap prices, and then demand payments much higher than the original amount of the debt, often taking poor countries to court when they cannot afford to repay.

Investigative journalist Greg Palast reports on one company that has won the right to collect $20 million from the government of Zambia after buying its debt for $4 million. In his recent State of the Union address, President Bush declared the United States was taking on the challenges of global hunger, poverty and disease, and urged support for debt relief, which he called the best hope for eliminating poverty.

But what exactly are wealthy nations doing to reduce the debt of impoverished countries?

Today we take a close look at companies known as “vulture funds.” Vulture fund companies buy up the debt of poor countries at cheap prices, and then demand payments much higher than the original amount of the debt, often taking poor countries to court when they cannot afford to repay.

For an in-depth look at this issue, we turn to a BBC Newsnight documentary by investigative reporter Greg Palast. Greg Palast’s BBC report on vulture funds. Today a high court judge in London ruled on the case that a vulture fund can extract more than $20 million from Zambia for a debt which it bought for just $4 million. To tell us more about this case and more we now turn to Greg Palast.

LATEST UPDATE — Zambia Loses ‘Vulture Fund’ Case

Greg Palast. Investigative reporter for the BBC on this story is author of the books “Armed Madhouse”, “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” and “Democracy and Regulation.”

The BBC Newsnight report was produced by Meirion Jones, BBC London; Rick Rowley, videographer/editor. Investigative research by Matt Pascarella, New York.

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Bush Could Block Debt Collection by ‘Vulture’ Funds

Greg Palast 

by Ashley Seager, Economics Correspondent
Thursday February 22, 2007
Guardian (London)

President Bush could come to the aid of Zambia against a so-called “vulture” fund demanding millions of dollars in debt payments. He is reported to be concerned that investors from the Washington DC area won a court case in Britain last week which enabling them to claim $20m to $40m (£20m) from the poor African nation — as much as it has received in debt relief from rich countries in recent years. …more

Vulture Fund Threat to Third World

Greg Palast 

Greg Palast reports on Vultures for BBC NewsnightWatch the Report
By Meirion Jones
BBC Newsnight

February 14, 2007On Thursday 15 February a high court judge in London will rule whether a vulture fund can extract more than $40m from Zambia for a debt which it bought for less than $4m.
There are concerns that such funds are wiping out the benefits which international debt relief was supposed to bring to poor countries.
Martin Kalunga-Banda, Zambian presidential adviser and a consultant to Oxfam told Newsnight, “That $40m is equal to the value of all the debt relief we received last year.” …more