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Silent safari offers no comment on marble steps

WATCHING the employees spill out from the EBRD into yesterday's lunchtime sunshine, you were reminded that it is no orthodox bank, writes Topaz Amoore.

Not only does it have what is said to be a pounds 700,000 marble foyer and pounds 52,000-a-time staff Christmas parties, but several of its polyglot employees wear safari suits to work.

The suits were reluctant to talk about the resignation of Jacques Attali. 'No comment,' they blurted in a variety of accents before shying away through that marble foyer, down the marble steps, and into the safety of the sandwich shop.

The security men would not say whether Mr Attali was inside the Glistening Bank. Did he plan to make another statement? 'No comment.' In the basement car park, three sleek, black diplomatic cars stood with their engines running, fuelling rumours that he would make a quick break for the airport. He didn't.

Back on the steps in Exchange Square (a safe 75 yards from the bank), a few EBRD-ers had been mellowed by the twin effects of a jazz band and a bottle of white wine.

'It's like (Michael) Mates,' said a six-foot, blond-haired man claiming to be Bernard, the other half of the Algerian-born Attali twins. 'The press wasn't giving up and eventually Attali couldn't cling on any longer. Every article written about us, even about a titchy project in Poland, mentioned private jets and marble. It was getting really embarrassing and the bank was losing what credibility it had left.'

Another employee said: 'We realised we had plush offices, we saw the refit going on, but we didn't stop to think where the money was coming from. Maybe he didn't either.'