London – The recent news that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has backtracked on a decision to close the bank accounts of broadcaster RT after pressure from Moscow, shows that the closure of bank accounts is a politicised process influenced by governments, where clients have little opportunity to challenge or query these decisions.
In the interests of transparency, there should be a cross party inquiry into bank account closures and the role the government has in directing independent financial institutions to make arbitrary and potentially illegal decisions for wider political point scoring. Banks cannot be above due process.
Many Muslim organisations including CAGE, the Ummah Welfare Trust, Finsbury Park Mosque, HHUGS, The Cordoba Foundation, Islamic Relief and Friends of al-Aqsa have had their bank accounts closed, with risk assessment given as a reason, and they have been given no avenues to challenge these decisions.
Banks, however, use the highly politicised World Check database to assess risk. This raises serious questions around how the banking sector is falling under political influence and using punitive measures to disrupt civil society organisations.
Ibrahim Mohamoud, spokesperson for CAGE, said:
“Where RT has the might of the Russian government on their side, many civil society and Muslim organisations do not have such powerful political connections. Aside from showing a double standard at play, this also means that many charities and civil society groups have been rendered ineffective by a politicised banking sector that remains unaccountable to basic rule of law principles. This has dire consequences for the independence, effectivity and diversity of civil society.”
“The fact that bank account closures have little to do with banking risk, and everything to do with politics is underlined further by the use of the World Check database by 49 out of 50 of the biggest banks, a database that lists major charities, activists, and mainstream religious institutions under its category of “terrorism”, despite none of them facing terrorism charges. This terrorism blacklist is also not open to challenge or query and is often based on information gathered from Islamophobic websites and political organizations.”
“The real issue here is that the Establishment is seeking to silence those who seek to promote alternative narratives. Any bank account closures deemed necessary by the state should be done within the rule of law and due process with a right to challenge, and not through the politicisation of banks in an underhanded way.”
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)