In a recent development, it has come to light that Nigel Farage, the former leader of the Brexit Party and UK Independence Party (UKIP), had his bank account with private lender Coutts closed.
The closure of his account has raised questions regarding Farage’s claims of being targeted by the bank due to his political views.
Coutts, a prestigious private bank that has served members of the British royal family since George IV, reportedly closed Farage’s account after he no longer met the bank’s wealth requirements. Customers of Coutts are required to maintain a minimum savings balance of £3 million or borrow/invest at least £1 million with the bank.
While Farage had previously suggested that the closure may be linked to his status as a politically exposed person (PEP) and allegations of receiving payments from Russia Today, it appears that the decision was primarily based on failing to meet the bank’s financial criteria.
Farage disclosed on BBC Radio 4’s World at One program that he had been a customer of Coutts for a decade and currently had more money in his current account than he had in most of that time. He stated that he received a notice about the closure two months ago. It has since been revealed that he was offered a standard personal account by NatWest Group, the parent company of Coutts, as well as the high street banks NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland.
Farage asserted that the personal account offer only came after he publicly voiced his grievances last Thursday. He maintained that his status as a political figure remained at the core of the issue. He cited that a total of nine other banks had also refused his business due to his PEP status, suggesting a broader trend.
The spokesperson for Farage did not immediately confirm whether he accepted or declined NatWest’s offer. NatWest Group declined to comment on the matter.
Farage’s complaints have sparked a freedom of speech debate, garnering attention from government officials, including security minister Tom Tugendhat, who expressed his view that banks closing accounts based on political grounds should be “completely unacceptable.” Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has also called on regulators to take action against banks that deny access to individuals with controversial viewpoints.
In response to these developments, the Treasury has confirmed that it is currently reviewing whether banks are blacklisting customers with politically controversial views. The recently passed Financial Services and Markets Act grants the City regulator the authority to examine how banks handle politically exposed persons, and this review will take place within the next 12 months.
The closure of Nigel Farage’s Coutts bank account has raised significant concerns about potential political targeting, although it appears that the primary factor was his failure to meet the bank’s wealth requirements. The ongoing discussions surrounding freedom of speech and the role of banks in relation to customers’ political views will likely continue as regulatory authorities delve into the matter.
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