THE reported freezing and closure of accounts by international bank, HSBC Bank, has not just affected Zimbabweans, but several other nationals as it emerges the financial institution is on a drive to minimise business risks associated with money laundering.
Report by Staff Reporter
Early this week, NewsDay reported that some Zimbabwean accountholders with the bank could no longer effect transactions in what was seen as a result of European Union and United States sanctions imposed on President Robert Mugabe’s government.
But according to a report by BBC, HSBC “has reportedly asked more than 40 diplomatic missions to close their accounts as part of a programme to reduce business risks”.
The bank was fined $2 billion by the United States for money-laundering activities allegedly conducted through its Latin American operations by a drug cartel last year.
Sources quoted by the UK based Mail Online said embassies were deemed to be politically exposed with a high risk of their bank accounts being targeted for money laundering activities.
An HSBC spokesperson told the same paper: “HSBC has been applying a rolling programme of “five filter” assessments to all its businesses since May 2011 and our services for embassies are no exception.”
According to the spokesperson, HSBC clients- notwithstanding their status- are now supposed to fulfill five-point criteria – ‘international connectivity, economic development, profitability, cost efficiency and liquidity’.
NewsDay took to the social networks to crowd source about this development and a UK based Zimbabwean, Brighton Musonza said on Facebook: “It is not only HSBC closing bank accounts; Barclays and other banks too have closed a few bank accounts lately used by Zimbabweans in the UK running informal money transfer agencies, that is for UK (money) transfers to Zimbabwe.”
Musonza said it was likely that any suspicious accumulation of cash “bound for Zimbabwe” in any bank account is under heavy scrutiny at the moment and can lead to the closure of accounts.
With an estimated 200 000 Zimbabweans living in the UK, there is a high activity of money transfers to Zimbabwe.
Another Zimbabwean, Conrad Mwanza, who claimed he had his two South African and Zimbabwean connected HSBC accounts closed, said: “Closures have nothing to do with sanctions, but fear of money laundering after fines from the US, HSBC and other banks put a points system that flags out accounts to be closed.”
On Twitter, @Zimbird said HSBC had been freezing accounts for over year, claiming fears of fraud and theft from Zimbabwe. @cuda82 said his friend was in the same predicament of having his accounts closed.