Kweku Adoboli has received a warm welcome in Ghana but badly misses his old life in UK
When Kweku Adoboli’s Kenya Airways flight touched down at Accra’s Kotoka international airport he was so dazed and confused he barely noticed the tropical temperatures, the spectacular palm trees or the rich, red bauxite earth of the country of his birth.
He had spent the first four hours of his flight from London Heathrow weeping about everything he had lost in the UK and the manner of his final parting from the country he had spent most of his life in.
After seven years of fighting the Home Office’s plans to deport him, the end of the road was swift and brutal. He was not even allowed to say goodbye to his loved ones.
Adoboli was arrested and detained two weeks ago, was deported two days later with no written notice from the Home Office about which flight he was going to board, and arrived back in Ghana, where he had not lived since the age of four, the following day.
Kweku Adoboli appears in court in 2011 over a fraud that cost his former employer UBS £1.8bn. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
“They did a bait and switch on the tarmac at Heathrow,” he says. “They indicated I would be boarding one plane then at the very last moment they forced me on to another so I couldn’t alert friends and family to what was happening.”
Adoboli moved to the UK at the age of 12 and boarded at Ackworth School, a Quaker establishment near Pontefract in West Yorkshire, before studying for a degree in computer science and management at Nottingham University.
The former UBS trader was jailed for seven years in 2012 after being found guilty of fraud that cost the bank $2.3bn (£1.8bn). He was released after serving half his sentence.
In Accra he received a warm and enthusiastic welcome not only from family and friends but from the wider community.
“In Ghana the concept of restorative justice exists, something that seems absent in the UK. People here are saying to me: ‘We need your skills, let’s get you back into the community. It’s not right or fair the way you were treated in the UK. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a chance to redeem themselves.’”
He is staying with his father, John Adoboli, a retired diplomat, in a suburban neighbourhood in Tema, a thriving port city about 15 miles from the capital that is twinned with the London borough of Greenwich. In contrast to the often chilly and grey UK weather, temperatures rarely dip below 30C (86F) and most months Ghanaians enjoy more than 200 hours of sunshine.
While Adoboli is at pains to emphasise his love for the country of his birth, for his family there and for the wider Ghanaian community, the UK has been his home for the past 26 years and he identifies with British culture and values.
He has built up a wide support network in Britain, with a core of 25 close friends including his girlfriend, Alice Gray, his friends Pippa Scott and Roland Verhaaf and their two sons aged three and five. Adoboli lived with Scott and Verhaaf in Scotland for more than three years after being released from prison.
“This is not about not liking Ghana,” he says of his seven-year battle against deportation. “It is about what has been taken away from me in the UK.”
As well as his loyal friends, from school, university and other areas of his life, he is mourning no longer being able to enjoy the seasons. “I’m missing seeing the end of autumn and I won’t see the promise of spring,” he says.
He left the UK with just a small rucksack he had packed when he went to report at a Home Office centre in Glasgow where he was arrested prior to deportation.
“I don’t have much use for my waxed Barbour coat here,” he says. “It’s hanging in the wardrobe. I need to get some more T-shirts though.”
Adoboli is not the only one who is distraught. Scott, Verhaaf and their children are feeling his absence keenly. Most of his belongings accumulated over 26 years of living in the UK remain in his bedroom in their home. The children do not understand why he is no longer there.
“We told them Kweku is staying with his parents. The three-year-old said: ‘Oh OK let’s go and see him there then,’ and went to put on his shoes and coat,” says Scott.
“Kweku doesn’t fit the materialistic banker stereotype,” she adds. “He has left behind lots of books, novels and classics, some clothes and his running shoes. Oh, and his toothbrush. On a whiteboard in the bedroom his notes about work he was doing on his Home Office and legal case are still there.”
Their older child has started learning to read and every night reads the list of words given by school to practise down the phone to Adoboli.
One item left in his old bedroom is a medal from the Queen he received after a three-day training session with UK and US special forces on counter-terrorism. He was one of several guest speakers along with Tony Blair and he travelled in a helicopter with the former prime minister.
The event was organised through the Forward Institute, which promotes responsible leadership in business and society, which Adoboli has been working with. On the three-day development course he was asked to speak about learning from failure and risk-taking in highly complex situations. The medal and a bottle of whisky were his reward.
Four days later, at the beginning of September, he was arrested and detained. The irony of one arm of the Home Office treating him royally while another detained and deported him is not lost on Adoboli and his friends.
While he is still in a state of shock and grief about his removal from the UK and the forced separation from his loved ones, he is relieved to no longer be living under the yoke of the Home Office. “It’s the first time I have felt free in seven years,” he says. “The Home Office destroys lives. Destroys lives.”
The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.