Updated: Saturday, 4th April 2020 @ 10:16am

Bolton charity delivering aid to Gaza express 'shock' as HSBC shuts down account – for the SECOND time

Bolton charity delivering aid to Gaza express 'shock' as HSBC shuts down account – for the SECOND time

| By Kenny Lomas

A Bolton charity that has helped deliver aid to the children of Gaza has questioned the motives behind HSBC’s decision to shut down their accounts the SECOND time this has happened.

Last week, the bank began notifying a number of Muslim organisations in the UK to tell them their accounts will be closed.

Ummah Welfare trust, based in Bolton, has delivered more than £70million in aid to various countries around the world, including Syria and Gaza, where it has had a presence for 10 years.

Mohammed Ahmad, 38, from Bolton, a trustee for Ummah, told MM a similar situation arose when Barclays bank decided to close down their accounts during the last Israeli-Palistine conflict in 2009.

"It’s not come as a massive shock, because this has happened before during the last conflict in Gaza,” he told MM.

"Barclays closed our account down back then, but they never said it was anything to do with what we were doing in Gaza.

"Why can’t they release a statement saying the actual reason they are closing the accounts?

"They have something to hide. Whether they can be challenged legally, I don’t know, but something isn’t right.”

In a hand-delivered letter, dated July 22, HSBC stated the reason for the closure was that ‘provision of banking services now falls outside our risk appetite’.

"It’s been a very disappointing choice of timing, when people are trying to help the people in Gaza.

"It’s almost like if somebody’s relatives have died and the company just cancels their services.

"You just can’t do something like that."

HSBC has given the charity two months' notice of its decision to close the trust's accounts.

"You will need to make alternative banking arrangements, as we are not prepared to open another account for you," the letter said.

Mr Ahmad said he asked HSBC representatives in a meeting why the accounts were closing, who were unable to offer an answer.

Mr Ahmad added: "It’s been a really busy week for us with Eid. People are relying on us.

"We’ve been collecting £1million a day, and people are very happy that we have been delivering aid, and now this happens.

"It’s just really poor timing.”

He suspects the decision is down to its work in Gaza, where the Ummah Welfare trust provides ambulances, food aid, medical aid, and grants.

HSBC have said the decision is ‘absolutely not based on race or religion’.

"We do not discuss relationships we may or may not have with a customer, nor confirm whether an individual or business is, or has been a customer,” a statement said.

"Discrimination against customers on grounds of race or religion is immoral, unacceptable and illegal, and HSBC has comprehensive rules and policies in place to ensure race or religion are never factors in banking decisions."

The bank said it was the decision is purely strategic, after a $1.9billion fine in 2012 over poor money-laundering controls.

"As a result of these ongoing reviews, we have exited relationships with business and personal customers in over 70 countries,” the bank said.

"The services we provide to charities are no exception to this global review."