How bell-ringers and a bowls team are among groups caught up in HSBC’s money laundering blitz
12 May 2021

Village bell-ringers and local bowls clubs are having their bank accounts closed by HSBC in a crackdown on money laundering.

Last month, Money Mail revealed how the international bank had shut down the account of a pigeon racing club, and we have since heard from other community groups which have also been hit.

Under action by the bank to prevent money being moved for the use of terrorism or the drug trade, these clubs are facing demands for more personal details and records — and having their accounts closed if they cannot comply.

Meg Hostler, founder of a Berkshire village club, the Finchampstead Handbell Ringers, says she was recovering from a throat infection when HSBC phoned her last year to clarify some account information.

She had only been out of hospital for a few weeks and was unable to speak.

Meg, 73, says she was asked to confirm a few simple details including her name, address and date of birth, and the name of the club’s treasurer. However, she says she could not get the words out.

The following month, she received a letter telling her that the account was to be shut — but it did not explain why.

Meg, who founded the group in 2005, says she struggled to open another account online and, as she and the treasurer were considered vulnerable to Covid, neither could visit a branch.

She says: ‘This whole thing has been a nightmare. We have been unable to pay for insurance on the bells or hall hire since our account was closed.

‘I don’t know why HSBC has done this. The only thing I can think is that we weren’t making it any money, as we never use the overdraft and don’t pay any fees.’

Banks can close accounts for a number of reasons, including if fraud is suspected.

Alan Hartley, treasurer of his local bowls club, was threatened with closure of its account earlier this year, after HSBC demanded extra information from him.

Alan, 67, who lives in Flintshire, North Wales, was first asked to submit basic details about himself, the chairman and the secretary.

But a few months later he was required to fill in a longer form that needed proof of address, ID and a tax return.

Within weeks, Alan, who has been treasurer of Gladstone Bowling Club for the past 15 years, received a letter saying the account would be closed on May 25 because he had not ‘been in touch’ with the required information.

He says the details the bank demanded were the sort you might expect it to ask a multinational company. ‘We only have around 80 to 100 members, who pay £25 a year membership,’ he says. ‘Our annual income is usually just £7,000.

‘HSBC cannot seem to tell the difference between the types of account it manages.

‘It feels as if it just wants to get rid of us. We have never had any problems with this account in the past 20 years, but it now feels as if HSBC is trying to make it awkward for small clubs that don’t need to borrow and rely on cash.’

Another reader, David Churm, ran into difficulties last year when he took over as treasurer of the Windmill Place social club in Oxfordshire.

He went to an HSBC branch in Thame to change the signatures and address on the account, which he says was accepted.

But in November, he received a cheque for the account balance of £1,109.46 and a letter stating that the account was now closed.

By Amelia Murray, The Daily Mail, 11 May 2021

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