Barclays has started closing the accounts of some of its retail customers in the UAE, just weeks after the lender announced that it was selling off its local retail arm.
Arabian Business understands that around 500 accounts have now been frozen.
Business and personal banking customers said that they had been telephoned by the lender on Tuesday morning, and informed that their accounts were being frozen.
"I was asked by the bank to come into the Emaar Square headquarters this morning," one of the customers, a British expatriate, who preferred not to be named, said. "They told me my account was being closed, but refused to give me a reason why.
"When I asked my relationship manager how many other accounts would be affected, he said hundreds, if not thousands - both personal and business.
"I felt like I was being treated like a criminal."
Another customer, who runs a medium-sized business, said that his debit card stopped working at 2pm on Monday, and his online account was frozen shortly afterwards.
"Barclays claimed they sent a letter, but I never received it," he told Arabian Business. "Now they are refusing to give me my money - they said they sent me a manager's cheque for the outstanding balance, which I have not received.
"It's really damaging my company - without having a bank account I can't operate until I get my money back and this is sorted out."
Despite several phone calls and emails, Arabian Business was unable to reach a Barclays spokesperson for comment.
In September, Barclays announced it will sell its retail bank in the UAE, highlighting the challenges foreign banks face in the Gulf competing against cash-rich local rivals who are finding it easier to meet stricter rules on risk.
Under chief executive Antony Jenkins, the British bank is axing at least 3,700 jobs globally, reining in pay of senior bankers and closing businesses across the group in the face of new capital rules.
"Barclays has decided to re-focus its efforts in the UAE on its key strengths in corporate and investment banking and wealth and investment management," the bank said in a statement last month.
* With Ed Attwood