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Co-op Bank threats to twin towns’ bank accounts

NSC News | Monday, 16 May 2016 |

Co-op Bank closing or threatening to close twin towns' bank accounts

Background

As you may know, in the last quarter of 2015, the Co-operative Bank closed the accounts of Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC), Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign (WNSC), Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)and 25 branches of PSC and charities supporting projects in Palestine.

In the case of the CSC, the CEO of the Co-op Bank, Niall Booker, admitted it took action because of fear of reprisals by the US Office for Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as part of the extraterritorial application of the US blockade against Cuba. The Cuban Permanent Mission to the UN has raised the issue in the UN as an example of how extra-territorial actions dictated by the US are continuing to be implemented illegally.

See: http://cuba-solidarity.org.uk/news/article/3030/co-op-bank-closures-of-csc-bank-account-raised-at-united-nations-uk-parliament-and-irish-p

Threats to Co-op Bank accounts of UK towns and communities with twinning links in Nicaragua

Undeterred by the extensive outcry over the closures at the end of 2015 that raised serious questions about their ethical credentials, over the past month the Co-op Bank has begun targeting UK towns that have twinning links with towns and communities in Nicaragua. http://nicaraguasc.org.uk/solidarity/twin-towns/

The Sheffield – Esteli Society has been informed that their account will be closed as of the end of June because of the threat the group poses to the Bank’s ‘risk appetite’. Four other groups – the Santa Rosa Fund, Bristol based Friends of Morazan, the Norwich/Norfolk- El Viejo Link, and the Leicester – Masaya Link Group are under investigation and have been required to complete 21 page forms giving extensive details of all their activities.

These twinning organisations have a long history of support for education, health, rural development and other community projects in Nicaragua targeting those most impoverished. We are at a loss to understand why they should in any way present such a serious risk to the reputation of an ‘ethical’ bank.

In addition, we are mystified as to what criteria the Co-op Bank is using to determine that Nicaragua is considered a ‘high risk country.’

According to the website Inter-governmental Financial Task Force (IFATF), recognised as the international standard for combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, as of 27 February, 2015 Nicaragua has established a ‘ legal and regulatory framework to meet its commitment’ and is ‘no longer subject to the FATF’s monitoring process under its on-going global AML/CFT compliance process’. It is therefore on no global list of ‘high risk’ countries.

http://www.fatf-gafi.org/publications/high-riskandnon-cooperativejurisdictions/documents/fatf-compliance-february-2015.html

There is no evidence whatsoever that Nicaragua or the operations of any of the twinned towns whose bank accounts the Co-op Bank is threatening with closure, form any kind of threat to the reputational risk of the Bank. On the contrary, in line with the Bank’s ethical stance, it should be strongly encouraging such development work and the links between UK and overseas communities.

What you can do

Send a message or write a letter to the Co-op Bank asking them to end discriminatory policies against organisations working in Nicaragua and to explain on what legislative pretext they are taking this action

Send complaints to complaints@co-operativebank.co.uk If you feel that your complaint has not been addressed adequately within 8 weeks complain to the Financial Ombudsman on complaint.info@financial-ombudsman.org.uk

Write to your MP. This is particularly important if your MP is sponsored by the Co-op.

Sign up to the 38 degrees petition calling on the Co-op Bank to stop bank account closures

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/co-op-bank-stop-closing-accounts-of-palestine-and-other-support-groups

 

Further information: https://saveourbank.coop/account-closures