Reports suggest that charities and others involved in humanitarian and other legal transfers of funds to Syria are being blocked by banks. The problem of “de-risking” was highlighted in April by the Center for a New American Security, and also in David Anderson QC’s report to the UK Parliament on Asset-Freezing in March last year (see previous blogs here and here).
Christian Aid, a UK charity whose bank declined to transfer humanitarian funds to Syria on its behalf, has said that sanctions are having the unintended consequence of denying aid “to people in desperate need of assistance”. In 2014, HSBC stopped the accounts of Islamic Relief, the UK’s largest Muslim charity, and several US banks are reported to have declined to transfer funds for Oxfam. The US Treasury is said to have acknowledged the problem and reassured banks that innocent mistakes won’t be penalised, but Robert Rowe, associate chief counsel at the American Bankers’ Association, notes that “as long as that gap of uncertainty exists we’re going to err on the side of caution and we’re going to exit lines of business”.