Banks targeting politicians – Toppin

By Barbados Today

A Barbados Government Minister gave commercial banks a tongue-lashing today and accused them of targeting politicians.

Minister of International Business Ronald Toppin, who was speaking in the House of Assembly during the debate on the Companies (Amendment) Bill, read from a Scotiabank letter which notified his St Michael North branch that the constituency’s bank account would be closed.

“Where are we supposed to put the money? Where are we to put the money when commercial banks decide we are these outlaws … What is the difference between a politician and a bank manager in terms of possibility of being corrupted? I know of some bank managers who are not bank managers today. Some may have taken kickbacks from deals. But they have the audacity to be targeting political people…”

The MP said the March 25, 2019 letter stated in part: “Dear X, Scotiabank has undertaken a strategic review of its operations in the Caribbean, Central America and Uraguay and as a result has decided that we would no longer be able to serve your account based on Scotiabank’s internal policy. I want to assure you that this position was not taken likely. We gratefully appreciate your support as a customer. However, at this point in time in accordance with the Financial Services agreement governing your account the bank gives you 60 days’ notice that it will be closing your account with the bank. Please make all necessary arrangements to bring your accounts to a zero balance on or before Friday, May 24, 2019.”

The lawyer said he had a serious problem with international bodies, commercial banks and all other institutions who seemed to be targeting politicians.

“What I will continue to have a problem with is what appears to be unrelenting targeting of the politically exposed person. If you look at the amendment to The Charities Act and I am sure it is duplicated in The Companies Act, there are nine categories of persons who would be deemed to be prominent public officers … of the nine, three are dedicated to people politically-associated or politically-involved.

He continued: “It was intended to make sure that nobody at all would ever think about politics. I am at a loss to find out what is the fixation with a political person. It is an honourable job and somebody gotta do it. You are always targeted. When does it end? What is wrong with being a politician?

During his contribution Attorney General Dale Marshall recalled enduring a lengthy period in order to get a transaction approved and completed. He said he was told by banking personnel his delay was due to the fact that he was a “politically-exposed person”.

“You fall under a microscope of the worst kind. I remember having to do some special banking arrangements a few years ago and it was taking long. After about three months I spoke to my account manager and he said: ‘Well Mr Marshall because you are politically-exposed person we have had to go through special rules and regulations before we can extend these banking services to you but I am happy to say you have passed the test.’ I said ok I can get the money now he said: ‘No, no, no sir we now have to do that part we have spent the last three months investigating you as a politically-exposed person …”