Now Ukrainian banks want to know about their clients’ “public activities”

In Ukraine it’s virtually impossible to use a bank without giving information about your property and public activities.  These are the results of research undertaken by Radio Svoboda after the National Bank of Ukraine ordered financial institutions to gather such information about their clients. Most MPs questioned believe the bank’s gathering of information to be unlawful, while independent analysts and some bankers see it as an attempt by the regime to restrict its oppoents’ opportunities before the elections. The National Bank claims that the measures are about fighting terrorism and financial crime.

Since October, Kyiv businesses and organizations have been receiving forms to fill in from banks that transfer salaries to employees about those workers’ assets, accounts in other financial institutions, their financial advisers, and whether they are engaged in public activities.

The banks cite amendments to the Law against legalization of criminal income and the relevant decision from the National Bank.

According to Article 62 of the Law on Banks and Banking, the forms can quite legally be passed to courts, state executive bodies, the tax inspectorate, SBU [Security Service], police, Anti-Monopoly Committee, as well as State financial monitoring bodies when these are created.

The National Bank resolution obliges banks to include questions about whether their clients are public figures or connected with them.

Radio Svoboda decided to ascertain whether an ordinary member of the public can open a deposit account or take out a loan without filling in the form from the National Bank. They found that two thirds of the banks would not let them open an account without information about their financial position and public activities, while in the case of a loan 85% demanded that they answer all questions.

Radio Svoboda found that all banks with foreign capital demanded that the forms were filled in. “Their staff in unofficial conversations explain that the mother banks are in that way insuring themselves, so that their branches in Ukraine don’t have problems with the authorities.

When the RS correspondent said that he didn’t want to give so much personal information, in half the cases he was unofficially advised to simply write that he wasn’t a public figure and didn’t have any valuable property.

Volodymyr Aryev, MP from Our Ukraine-People’s Self Defence calls on people to take the banks to court or tell them lies. He says that the dossier gathering system will then fall apart.

Some MPs, including the head of the Party of the Regions factions, Oleksandr Yefremov, denied that such information was being gathered.

However some opposition politicians however believe that the government is collecting confidential data about its opponents.
Andriy Pyshny, former Acting Head of the State Savings Bank and on the board of the opposition Front for Change Party says that the main question is whether you’re a public figure. If you are, he says, they can block operations or receive information about money entering and leaving your accounts."
Pyshny asserts that the National Bank is helping to build "a police state in Ukraine” and links the initiative to the parliamentary elections due next year.

From the report by Yevhen Solonyna here

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