Lord Mayor angles for vote of Arab investors

The Lord Mayor of London tried to safeguard investment by rich Arab businessmen in the UK yesterday by telling them their funds were safer in this country than in the US.

Gavyn Arthur said British police and financial regulators were not indiscriminately combing through accounts held by people of Arab origin in an attempt to track down funds belonging to terrorists including those belonging to the al-Qa'ida network. Mr Arthur, who is visiting Bahrain, said: "British law does not permit 'fishing expeditions' against Arab funds of the kind that go on in New York and have discouraged Arab investment there."

The Lord Mayor insisted that Arab investors were not treated differently from any others. "Arab funds are subject to the same checks, the same monitoring and benefit from the same protection. The system is totally fair and unbiased," he said at a dinner hosted by Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Kalifa, the governor of the Bahrain Monetary Authority.

There have been anecdotal reports since the 11 September terrorist attacks that Arab investors have withdrawn hundreds of millions of pounds of funds from the US, UK and other European countries such as France due to fears that their bank accounts would be frozen.

The Financial Services Authority has tried to crack down on terrorists by requiring banks, accountants and lawyers that believe their clients are involved in murky dealings to hand information over.

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