FNB dumps clients linked to Fishrot
In a bold move, the country’s largest bank has pulled the plug on clients with links to the damaging multimillion bribery scandal – for its own reputation.
23 September 2021 | Local News
First National Bank (FNB) Namibia has decided to terminate and close accounts belonging to individuals and businesses linked to the Fishrot scandal. These include credit cards, unit trusts, call accounts as well as home loans.
Namibian Sun has seen letters served to some of the bank’s clients - some dating back to June - titled ‘Notice of termination of business relationship’.
The letters state that FNB Namibia has reviewed its business relationship with the individuals and the various legal entities they are linked/associated with.
“This review was done in light of adverse media publications by the Namibian media regarding yourself and your associated businesses and the underlying transactional behaviour on the various accounts held by FNB Namibia with individuals and entities linked to the on-going Fishrot case,” the letters read in part.
The bank stated that it conducts its business in a transparent and responsible manner and publicity and risk associated with “undesirable transactional behaviour” does not resonate with its corporate values and principles.
“In light of the above, FNB Namibia has decided to divest from business relations with you. We regret to inform you that the following FNB accounts will be closed within 60 days from date hereof. You are advised to kindly proceed to make suitable alternative banking arrangements as soon as possible and subsequently inform FNB thereof in writing in order for us to transfer your balance(s) - if any – accordingly.”
The letters listed accounts the individuals and their businesses have with the bank and informed them that any debit balances on any facilities/overdrafts will become due and payable immediately on expiry of the 60-day period.
‘Punishing’ black clients
The move has been heavily criticised by those affected, who have accused the bank of targeting black clients and black-owned companies, saying many white law firms and white-owned companies who did business with the Fishrot suspects have not received the same treatment.
The affected clients also claim that many people are listed as witnesses in the Fishrot case, including FNB Namibia, questioning what the bank will do to punish itself.
“The bank is bound by the law to make due diligence on transactions which flag red signals, which FNB didn’t seem to have done when these transactions were taking place, and has resorted to using media reports to ‘punish’ us.
“And in this case, the clients feel they have not yet been charged or found guilty,” one of those affected lamented.
FNB Namibia communications manager Elzita Beukes said she is not able to discuss any decisions taken on private accounts of customers nor any ongoing legal investigation.
“Clients who have legitimate claims against the bank are aware of their rights and are encouraged to contact us directly at any time for details on any decisions taken,” she said.
Namibian Sun could not establish how many people have been affected by the bank’s move and what statutes or laws FNB relied on to affect these terminations.
The bank was also unable to answer how it will make sure the terminations do not affect clients’ mortgages, considering that they have not been charged or convicted.
FNB cited media reports in its letters, seemingly the only point it had to terminating the accounts and refused to answer on whether any in-house investigations have been done.
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