Metro Bank faces new le­gal ac­tion by Ira­nian cus­tomers

The Guardian - - Financial - Ka­ly­eena Mako­rtoff Bank­ing cor­re­spon­dent

Metro Bank has been hit with a law­suit by a group of Ira­nian cus­tomers who claim their ac­counts were sus­pended with­out no­tice or ex­pla­na­tion.

The group of 17 claimants, who are ex­pected to seek at least £1.5m in dam­ages, in­clude dual Bri­tish-Ira­nian cit­i­zens, Ira­nian cit­i­zens liv­ing in the UK, and a num­ber of UK-based busi­nesses in­clud­ing an engi­neer­ing firm and a con­sul­tancy.

The law firm Ron­ald Fletcher Baker (RFB) said its clients were blocked from their ac­counts and cash be­tween May and Septem­ber 2019.

“Our clients are all UK res­i­dents and they have made it clear to Metro Bank that they did not use their ac­counts in an un­law­ful or il­le­git­i­mate man­ner,” said Rokhsareh Vahid, a sanc­tions and bank­ing spe­cial­ist at RFB.

“Metro Bank has not al­leged that any of the claimants were in­volved in any il­le­gal or il­le­git­i­mate ac­tiv­i­ties and it has re­leased the re­stric­tions on some ac­counts dur­ing this process, which ef­fec­tively con­firms that our clients were not in­volved in any wrong­do­ing,” she added.

Vahid claimed that her clients suf­fered fi­nan­cially and that one busi­ness had been forced to lay off staff.

Metro Bank is also fac­ing a US class ac­tion suit over an ac­count­ing blun­der on its loan book be­tween March 2018 and May 2019. The suit was filed af­ter the lender re­vealed the mis­clas­si­fi­ca­tion of £900m of loans as less risky than they were, an er­ror that is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Au­thor­ity.

The bank is also re­view­ing its own com­pli­ance con­trols af­ter it dis­cov­ered it had breached US sanc­tions in Cuba and Iran in 2017 and 2019 re­spec­tively. There is no ev­i­dence sug­gest­ing the ac­count sus­pen­sions re­ferred to in the lat­est law­suit and those breaches are re­lated.

A Metro Bank spokes­woman said: “Metro Bank takes its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in line with UK reg­u­la­tions, to en­sure the in­tegrity of the UK fi­nan­cial sys­tem and pro­tect it from fi­nan­cial crime very se­ri­ously. Metro Bank will de­fend it­self vig­or­ously should this go any fur­ther.”

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