Rabobank allowed a Panamanian woman to refuse applications for a payment account of her own and her children because of the relationship with Panama, which has been classified as a high-risk country. The Bank is therefore unable to meet the requirements set by Wwft. The Dispute Committee of the Caved Institute for Financial Complaints ruled a binding decision.
The woman is a Panamanian and lives partly in Panama and the Netherlands with her partner and children. She has a valid residence permit and a citizen service number. The woman’s partner owns a business in Panama. She herself does administrative work for her partner’s company. Both the woman and her partner have one or more bank accounts in Panama. In June 2020, the woman tried to open a checking account for her and her children, but Rabobank refused. After that, the Complaints Institute was contacted, Kafid, to decide on the matter.
Rabobank: money laundering risks
Rabobank argued before the Dispute Committee that women are at increased risk of money laundering or terrorist financing, and as a result the bank is obligated to conduct more customer due diligence. In this context, the bank referred to sources from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). It follows that Panama is a country that does not have effective anti-money laundering and terrorist financing systems. Since Panama is on this list, the bank has rated the country as a high-risk country. The woman’s statements indicate that she will use the account to receive money from Panama, and she and her partner still have bank accounts in Panama and work for her partner’s company, which is based in Panama. On this basis, the bank concluded that there was a significant risk that the required accounts would be fed directly or indirectly with funds from Panama. Accordingly, the bank states that it is not able to form a transparent picture of the origin of funds in the accounts, while it is obliged, on the basis of risk, to perform additional due diligence towards customers. Now that the bank cannot meet its obligations under Wwft, it is obligated to refuse applications for a basic checking account.
The bank cannot fulfill Wwft’s obligations
In the opinion of the Kifid Complaints Committee, the Bank has sufficiently explained and substantiated that on the basis of its risk analysis the Bank can conclude that Panama qualifies as a country of increased risk and that the relationship of women with the country necessitates enhanced customer due diligence. The Bank has also sufficiently demonstrated that, given the woman’s data, it will not have sufficient visibility of the cash flows in the account and therefore cannot meet the obligations under Wwft. The Commission assumes that the woman and her partner, as parents, are assigned parental authority over their minor children, as it has not been stipulated or proven otherwise. Parental authority obligates parents, among other things, to manage the assets of their children, so that they are closely related to their parents, at least with respect to the accounts payable required. The Committee therefore does not consider it unreasonable that the Bank also reached a conclusion in the case of the children that it would not have sufficient visibility of the cash flows in the accounts and could not meet its obligations in Wwft.
The fact that Panama, the woman argues, has been designated by the FATF as a country that has committed to address the shortcomings of FATF cooperation, does not change that. After all, the list also states that it pertains to countries with strategic shortcomings in preventing money laundering. In addition, since October 1, 2020, Panama has been identified by the European Commission as a third country with a higher risk of money laundering.
The woman further stated that the bank did not wrongly take into account the fact that they had applied for a payment account with the aim of entering a paid job in the Netherlands. It is also not true that her partner or she has a company in Panama and that they both have bank accounts in Panama. Thus, the conclusion that the bill will be submitted is unfounded, according to the woman. The Committee considers that the Bank explained that it relied, among other things, on the statements of the woman herself. She established that the woman had already made these statements by providing copies of her administration. If a woman believes that the information at his disposal from the bank is incorrect, it is up to her to prove it in more detail. However, she did not.
The bank’s statements were based on a relationship with a company in Panama on online databases showing that the woman was registered as a manager in that company. Therefore, the bank has good reason to believe that there is a relationship between the company in Panama and the woman. Why this is not true did not explain the woman. Bank also showed a willingness to engage in discussions with the woman to see if removing errors and ambiguities could lead to a different outcome. The fact that the woman does not wish to cooperate further after the initial meeting is at the expense and risking herself. This is now the case as the bank is obligated to perform the most stringent due diligence towards customers and prevents it from entering into a relationship if it is unable or unable to properly conduct such investigation.
There is also no discrimination, according to the complaints committee. The bank’s explanation states that applications for a payment account were denied due to the risk of feeding the accounts directly or indirectly with funds from Panama, which has been classified as a high-risk country. Therefore it cannot meet the requirements set by Wwft. It follows that even if the woman has a different nationality, the application will be rejected if there is a risk that the account will be fed directly or indirectly with money from Panama. Therefore, there is no direct discrimination on the basis of nationality. Although indirect discrimination on the basis of a consumer’s Panamanian nationality is conceivable, bank discrimination depends on generally binding regulations, in this case Wwft and regulations adopted by the European Commission in the IV Anti-Money Laundering Directive and specific risk factors. The prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of nationality does not apply in this case.
balance of interests
The Committee notes that it recognizes the important importance of women and their children being able to participate in society. However, this does not change the fact that the bank is legally obligated to conduct the most stringent due diligence in the case of women and to mitigate the risk of money laundering. Since the bank was not able to fulfill these legal obligations, it was forced to refuse applications. So the committee wants to suggest that women still allow the bank to properly perform those obligations, so that basic current account options can still be explored.