HSBC bank cuts off services to Muslim charity

Move against Islamic Relief is latest to affect Muslim groups in the UK but the bank denies motives are religious.

hsbc bank
HSBC could have been influenced by the UAE to end its ties with a number of Muslim groups in the UK [Getty Images]

Banking giant HSBC has stopped offering financial services to the charity Islamic Relief, which becomes the latest Muslim organisation to have its ties with the company cut.

Islamic Relief UK was told by HSBC its activities in “high-risk jurisdictions” posed a challenge to the bank due to pressure from US authorities to deal with money laundering, according to a statement published on the charity’s website on Monday.

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“We were in discussions with HSBC during 2014 through which we learned that the bank felt it would be difficult to continue its banking relationship with us due to the nature of our work,” said Imran Madden, Islamic Relief’s UK director, in the statement.

“At this point they invited us to end the relationship – which they did themselves at the end of the year when we declined.”

The charity, which was founded in the UK and is involved in relief efforts across the world, said payments it made to vendors who used HSBC’s services were held up by the bank for months.

Islamic Relief said the delays affected its attempts to buy tents for victims of last year’s earthquake in Nepal.

Other banks and financial providers were helping the organisation ensure aid deliveries reached areas they were needed, the statement said.

A HSBC spokesperson said the bank did not comment on individual customers for privacy reasons but it never took decisions based on a customer’s race or religion.

READ MORE: Are UK banks targeting Muslim charities?

“Whenever we review a customer relationship, we gather information from a wide range of sources and take a number of factors into consideration,” the spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

“For a business customer, these factors would typically include the type of activities the business is involved in, the jurisdictions in which it operates and the products and services it uses.

“Although we can’t always be specific about why we decide to close an account, a decision of this kind is never taken lightly and is never due to the customer’s race or religion.”


Islamic Relief would not be taking legal action to force the bank to reverse its decision, its spokesperson told Al Jazeera.

“HSBC was not our main bank and handled a relatively small amount of business for us,” said Martin Cottingham, head of communications for the charity.

“So we’ve sought and secured alternative financial partners rather than resorting to legal action.”

In August 2014, Al Jazeera spoke to a number of organisations, including charities, mosques, think tanks, and community groups, whose accounts had been shut down by HSBC.

A BBC Radio 4 investigation last July found HSBC could have been influenced by the UAE to end its ties with a number of Muslim groups in the UK.

The UAE has added dozens of Western Muslim groups to its list of terror organisations, including Islamic Relief and others that had their bank accounts closed by HSBC.

Speaking to Al Jazeera in November, an Islamic Relief spokesperson said the charity “categorically denied terrorist links and is in the process of challenging its listing through the Emirati courts”.

Follow Shafik Mandhai on Twitter: @ShafikFM

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Source: Al Jazeera