Barclays' accounts move attacked

Barclays bankBarclays will come under renewed pressure today over a decision to pull the plug on companies offering a "lifeline" to families in poorer countries.

Campaigners have been urging the bank not to close the accounts of 250 UK money-transfer companies and a delegation led by shadow international development minister Rushanara Ali will deliver a 25,500-strong petition to Downing Street this morning.

Double Olympic champion runner Mo Farah, who came to Britain from Mogadishu at the age of eight , has been urging his 800,000-plus Twitter followers to "support vital money flows to families in Somalia".

The petition calls on the UK Government, regulators and Barclays to take urgent action to make sure millions of people do not see their "vital lifeline" cut off.

Ms Ali, who is Labour MP for the east London constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow, has said many of her constituents are worried about Barclays' decision.

"People across the UK and many of my constituents are desperate to get money to their loved ones," she said.

"Shutting this vital lifeline runs the risk of money being sent through dangerous and alternative methods that are not properly regulated."

"As the deadline for the suspension of these remittance accounts is nearing, it is crucial that the UK Government, Barclays Bank and the regulatory authorities take these matters to hand and make this issue a priority.

"They have a responsibility to act fast to find an alternative solution to prevent money transfer businesses from being closed down in a matter of days."

Farah said: "It is so important that the government and the banks realise the incredibly serious threat this poses, and work with the remittance industry to find a solution.

"Millions of Somalis as well as people across the developing world depend on it."

Barclays has not pulled out of the market altogether and the majority of companies it gave notice to are understood to have been able to find another bank.

The industry generally has been looking at how money laundering controls can be tightened. Last year, HSBC agreed to pay US authorities a record 1.9 billion US dollars (£1.2 billion) settlement over accusations that it allowed rogue states and drug cartels to launder billions of pounds through its US arm.

Barclays has said in a statement: " As a global bank, we must comply with the rules and regulations in all the jurisdictions in which we operate. The risk of financial crime is an important regulatory concern and we take our responsibilities in relation to this very seriously.

"Whilst Barclays makes no comment on specific companies, it is recognised that some money service businesses don't have the necessary checks in place to spot criminal activity, with the degree of confidence required by the regulatory environment under which Barclays operates.

"Abuse of their services can have significant negative consequences for society and for us as their bank. We remain happy to serve companies who, in our opinion, have sufficiently strong anti-financial crime controls and who meet our amended eligibility criteria."

Barclays said it has been working with the UK Government and other bodies to discuss the issues, "especially given the regulatory and financial crime pressures upon banks".

It said: "Where appropriate we have provided customers with additional time to find alternative banking services."

© 2013 Press Association