HSBC cuts accounts of envoys in Britain

AFP-JIJI

Global banking giant HSBC is closing the accounts of foreign diplomats in Britain and giving them 60 days to move their money, a report said Sunday.

More than 40 embassies and consulates are said to have been affected, including the Vatican, with the decision being described as creating “havoc” in the diplomatic corps.

The situation has been worsened by other banks refusing to take their business, and the Foreign Office has had to get involved.

“We are in contact with HSBC and the diplomatic missions affected, and have provided a number of them with letters of introduction, to help in opening a new bank account,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.

However, under the Vienna Convention covering diplomatic relations, Britain has no power to force commercial banks to provide services.

Bernard Silver, head of the Consular Corps, which represents consuls in Britain, told The Mail on Sunday newspaper: “HSBC’s decision has created havoc.”

The London-headquartered bank said its decision was part of an assessment of business customers under which they must meet five criteria: “international connectivity, economic development, profitability, cost efficiency and liquidity.”

The Mail on Sunday said one diplomat told them he thought the bank feared being exposed to embassies after being caught up in a costly money-laundering scandal.