Barclays is destroying a lifeline for some of the poorest people in the world

Posted on

I have reported, often, on Barclays shooting itself in the foot on this blog. I suspect I will do so again before too long. Bt right now Barclays is doing something much worse. It is cutting off the economic lifeline of millions of people in Africa. As the FT reports:

Barclays has defended its decision to sever links with hundreds of international money transfer companies in spite of a high-profile protest led by the Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah.

The Somali-born British athlete headed a petition signed by more than 25,000 people and presented to Downing Street on Wednesday, which urged the British government to consider the affect the bank’s action will have on some of the world’s poorest people.

Candidly, this action is callous. The defence is that (the FT again):

A number of the world’s largest banks have pulled back on operations in profitable emerging markets as international anti-money laundering rules tighten.

Barclays’ decision follows a similar action by HSBC in the wake of its record $1.9bn settlement with US authorities over money-laundering allegations.

The bank said its decision to close accounts was based on concerns about the checks used by companies to prevent criminal activity, not the countries involved.

“The risk of financial crime is an important regulatory concern and we take our responsibilities in relation to this very seriously,” Barclays said.

I’ll be blunt. I don’t believe them. If they were worried about money laundering Barclays would pull out of Cayman, the BVI, Jersey and other locations where tax evasion and high level avoidance is rampant – all of it only possible because of the presence of the world’s major banks and the availability of corporate and trust secrecy that facilitates the movement of billions and even trillions of funds behind a veil of respectability, all in the pursuit of greed and excess.

But instead Barclays is pulling out of a sector where the average transaction is a few hundred pounds at most and people are literally dependent for their economic survival on such payments being made.

This stinks of pure hypocrisy and utter indifference on Barclays’ part – and they deserve to be more than roundly condemned for it. The world needs to hold them to account for the suffering they will cause.