HSBC under fire in UK over closure of Muslim accounts

Lender blames 2012 fine for move, which has seen several Muslim charities hit
HSBC under fire in UK over closure of Muslim accounts
By Ed Attwood
Thu 31 Jul 2014 12:28 PM

Global lender HSBC is in the spotlight after the bank's British operation decided to close down a series of accounts belonging to local mosques, Muslim groups and local charities.

Several groups, including the Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, have recently received a letter from the bank, indicating that their business no longer fitted HSBC’s “risk appetite”, according to the BBC.

Other entities that have had their accounts closed by the bank include the Cordoba Foundation and the Ummah Welfare Trust. The cases have sparked accusations that HSBC - whose tagline is ’the world’s local bank’ - has been conducting an Islamophobic campaign.

However, the lender said that the moves come after a fine imposed in 2012 after an investigation implicated HSBC in money laundering through the US financial system.

An HSBC spokesman said: “We do not discuss individual customers, nor do we confirm whether an individual or business is, or has been a customer.

“For context however, HSBC was fined $1.9 billion in December 2012 by the US and UK governments and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement.

“The bank is applying a programme of strategic assessments to all of its businesses.

“As a result of these ongoing reviews, we have exited relationships with business and personal customers in over 70 countries. The services we provide to charities are no exception to this global review.”

He added: “Decisions to end a customer relationship are not taken lightly, and are absolutely not based on the race or religion of a customer.

“Discrimination against customers on grounds of race or religion is immoral, unacceptable and illegal, and HSBC has comprehensive rules and policies in place to ensure race or religion are never factors in banking decisions.”

HSBC has also been paring back its operations in the UAE in recent months, following the 2012 fine. In June last year, the bank decided to close the accounts belonging to several small and medium sized businesses.

In March, HSBC confirmed that it had closed some regional accounts with links to sanction-targeted nations, including Syria and Iran. It also announced an unspecified number of redundancies in the region.

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