By Andy Bloxham
Last Updated: 7:20AM BST 06/06/2008
Barclays is closing the bank accounts of British customers, who are
working in this country for businesses linked to Iran, to conform with
US anti-terror laws.
The bank, which has considerable business interests in the US, is using
guidelines drawn up under the Patriot Act to target firms which have not
broken any laws in the UK.
The development emerged after a letter, which was written to lawyers
representing employees of the Iranian-owned Bank Saderat and Melli Bank,
was leaked to The Times newspaper.
Both banks have bases in the City of London, they are fully licensed to
operate in Britain and are regulated by the Financial Services
There are Treasury and European Union sanctions in place against Iranian
firms but neither of the banks are punished under those rules.
However, they both appear on the US government Office of Foreign Assets
Control list of specially designated nationals (SDNs).
The US has accused Melli Bank of links to weapons of mass destruction
and described Bank Saderat as a terrorist financier. Both banks deny the
The letter, written by Deborah Cooper, a senior Barclays lawyer, said:
“Barclays has… a policy of not conducting business with people or
entities which are publicly designated SDNs and in line with that
Barclays is unable to receive payments from or undertake other business
which involves Melli or Saderat.”
Among those affected was a Barclays customer who gave his name only as
Chris, 46, who works in IT for Bank Saderat, while his wife is in the
accounts department of Melli Bank.
Both of their personal accounts were closed after a single telephone
Chris said: “I asked them if they were responding to American laws and
they said they didn’t have to give me a reason.”
Barclays had no comment and cited customer confidentiality for being
unable to discuss the issues.