Business And Markets

Italian Banks Single Out Iranians

Italian Banks Single Out Iranians
Italian Banks Single Out Iranians

Several Italian banks have closed or imposed restrictions on accounts held by Iranians citing the US sanctions, and in the process creating financial difficulties for those affected.
According to Euronews, the Italian branch of ING Direct Bank sent a letter to Iranian customers several months ago demanding explanation and documents about their income and bank transfers. The resulted was several account closures.
Intesa San Paolo, another bank, imposed restrictions demanding Iranians to submit documents about their jobs and sources of income.
Many Iranians in Italy are students or long-term residents with local jobs and whose monthly wages are kept in local banks. The abrupt bans, account closures and new restrictions have pushed most in dire straits.
"I received a letter a few days ago from my bank telling me I had two days to close my account," Hossein, an Iranian national living in Milan, told Euronews.
He added that his salary is deposited into the account and that he has made no international transfer or suspicious transaction. Several of his friends, he said, have also received such letters.
According to Hossein, the bank provided no explanation for closing his account prompting him to conclude that his nationality is "very likely" behind the action. He now plans to seek help from the Iranian Embassy.
The bank said, however, that all accounts, not just those held by Iranian nationals, are monitored to prevent money laundering.


Policy Change for Iranians

Maryam, an Iranian who's been living in Italy for the past 15 years, told Euronews that she had been told that Italian banks are allowed to close accounts without providing a reason but that they must, however, give proper notice.
Account holders should also be allowed to take their money out after their accounts have been closed, she explained, adding that FineCo is another bank that has rejected applications for bank accounts by Iranian nationals.
Banks in Italy are subject to a law banning racism so should therefore not be allowed to impose restrictions, close accounts or deny loan requests solely on the basis of nationality.
But Carige Bank told Sepehr, a 33-year-old Iranian, that its policy towards Iranian nationals had "changed".
He told Euronews that when he went to his local branch in Genoa he was told that they were "forced" to close his account with the order coming from "top officials".


Huge Penalties 

Some Iranians in Italy have turned to messaging applications, like Telegram, to try to find solutions to their common problem. Others have shared their banking difficulties on social media in the hope of drawing attention to the issue.
But many are fearful of doing the same. "Most Iranians who have this problem in Italy find it difficult to obtain a student visa or residence permit and so they do not pursue the matter over fears they'll be accused of money laundering or some other wrongdoing and then have trouble renewing their legal residence," Maryam told Euronews.
Several European banks have been slapped hefty US fines for allegedly flouting sanctions. Dutch Bank ING paid $619 million (€568 million) in fines in 2012 after being accused of violating US sanctions against Cuba and Iran.
France's BNP Paribas was found guilty of violations sanctions against Iran, Sudan and Cuba in 2014 by US authorities, who slapped them with a €6.5 billion penalty.

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