Lawyers for more than a dozen British residents who have ties to Iran have accused RBS and Natwest of racism and have launched a claim for breaches of the Equality Act. Just a week after the bank paid a $100 million to settle claims in the United States for busting financial sanctions, including over Iran, lawyers at Blackstone Law Firm say their clients, including school pupils, have received letters from RBS, Natwest and other banks, threatening to withdraw their accounts.
Emma Nawaz, the MD of the law firm told me the banks "just seem to be casting the net" to anyone with any ties to the country, even though her clients are "normal, everyday people", who are "integrated in every way possible." She claims the banks are increasingly unwilling to handle accounts belonging to anyone with ties to Iran. In 2011, the government ordered financial institutions to stop doing business with their counterparts in Iran, but Nawaz maintains that the vast majority of those affected have never conducted any transactions with the country.
– Emma Nawaz
We have had numerous clients contacting us in utter panic. If banks will not provide banking facilities to those citizens of Iranian heritage, they will not have anywhere to pay their salaries into or pay bills from; their lives will be made intolerable in the UK. This is ethnic profiling in the UK. These ordinary people who contribute to society are becoming victims of racism by high street banks.
So far the numbers known to be affected are small, but Blackstone believes many more consumers could come forward. Lawyers have today filed an injunction to stop those affected losing access to their accounts. RBS is yet to respond.
UPDATE: RBS have responded and issued the following statement:
We have strong defences in this case but unfortunately cannot comment on individual customer account decisions. We have very important obligations to ensure we are not in breach of sanctions regulations.