Ex-Im Bank Backing Brunei Despite Death Penalty for Gays

Hollywood community protesting Clinton Global Initiative donor’s anti-gay laws
HIllary Clinton meets with the Sultan of Brunei in 2012 / AP

HIllary Clinton meets with the Sultan of Brunei in 2012 / AP

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As Hollywood protests rage against Brunei’s brutal new anti-gay and anti-blasphemy laws, the U.S. government’s official export bank says it has no plans to withdraw its $1 billion financing agreement with the strict Islamist country.

The government of Brunei introduced new laws that punish homosexuality, adultery and insults against Islam with death by stoning. The prior penalty for homosexuality was 10 years in prison.

Celebrities from Ellen DeGeneres to Jay Leno called for a boycott of the famed Beverly Hills Hotel, which is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, after the government introduced the religious edicts late last month.

Despite the celebrity backlash, the Brunei government’s memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Export Import Bank (Ex-Im) is still moving forward.

Brunei’s Energy Department signed an energy financing deal on March 25 with the Ex-Im Bank, the U.S. federal agency that helps finance exports to foreign countries by providing them with loans, credit insurance, and other assistance.

While the Ex-Im Bank often issues press releases promoting similar deals, there was no statement about the Brunei agreement on its press website as of Thursday. However, it was covered in the foreign press.

The deal would provide Brunei with up to $1 billion in financing for U.S. energy sector products, the Brunei Times reported.

“This [memorandum of understanding] will serve as a key to unlock at least US$1 billion of this commitment from the ExIm Bank,” said the Brunei Energy Department’s permanent secretary Dato Paduka Hj Jamain Hj Julaihi.

The Ex-Im Bank’s representative Patricia Loui called the deal a “win-win,” according to China’s Xinhua News Agency.

“Because EXIM can finance up to 30 percent in local costs, this collaboration can foster more jobs on both sides of the Pacific—for both U.S. exporters and for Brunei buyers,” said Loui.

However, a spokesperson for the Ex-Im Bank told the Free Beacon that the memorandum of understanding did “not constitute a financing commitment.” He also said the bank would have to assess Brunei’s compliance with Ex-Im’s “Social Due Diligence Procedures” before providing any financing.

“Prior to any actual transaction, Ex-Im Bank would, of course, perform a full evaluation of the project, including compliance with the bank’s Environmental and Social Due Diligence Procedures and Guidelines,” said the spokesperson. “That evaluation would include a full analysis of all issues, including human rights, that are related to a potential project.”

Complicating the issue, the Ex-Im bank’s chairman Fred Hochberg is one of the top openly gay officials in the Obama administration and has reportedly used his position to forge ties with LGBT communities around the world.

Celebrities are not the only ones protesting Brunei’s new laws. The Beverly Hills city council has called on the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, to sell his stake in the Beverly Hills Hotel.

A group of top gay donors also moved their planned conference this week from the Beverly Hills Hotel to another location in response to the controversy.

The outrage does not appear to be dying down anytime soon. The New York Times reported that travel companies, including the Virgin Group conglomerate, have joined the boycott against the Dorchester Collection, the hotel group owned by the Sultan of Brunei.

Brunei’s death-by-stoning law has been condemned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International.

Even before the new law caught the attention of celebrities and the international community last month, Brunei had strict and long-standing prohibitions on homosexuality that carried a 10-year prison sentence.

In addition to its deals with the U.S. Ex-Im Bank, the government of Brunei is also a top donor to the Clinton Global Initiative and has contributed between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation.

Hillary Clinton met with the Sultan of Brunei in 2012 while serving as Secretary of State.