The testimonies swarm in the media and on social networks. At the end of the month, while the conflict in Ukraine is getting bogged down, many citizens of Russian origin residing in France are complaining of seeing their banking operations delayed, or of receiving their salaries several days late in their bank accounts. .
This is the case of this employee of a French company, who has lived in France for eight years, and who had to “fight with her bank so that her salary, normally paid on the 25th of the month, can finally arrive in her account, five days later,” according to testimony collected by AFP.
On Twitter, Internet users also tell of the difficulties encountered by their spouses or friends, of Russian nationality, to normally access their accounts. Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and Crédit Mutuel are most often singled out in these comments.
A petition has even been launched online to raise public awareness of the problem and “put an end to this blatant discrimination based on national origin”. Written in French and Russian, it collected more than 2,000 signatures in three days.
Questioned, the banks in question deny any discrimination – an accusation also made by the boss of the television channel RT France, whose broadcasting has been banned since the start of the conflict.
“We continue to support Russian nationals in France as required, for the opening of an account as well as in the management of day-to-day banking needs”, assures a spokesperson for BNP Paribas.
Fear of penalties
But the situation of customers of Russian origin may indeed be more complex in the current context of war and the sanctions adopted against Russia. “European banks are bound by an obligation of very high vigilance regarding operations likely to be affected by the sanctions adopted by the European Union”, recalls Crédit Mutuel.
Who recognizes that “the verifications induced by the decisions of the European public authorities can lead to delays in the processing of transactions”, even if the bank “does its utmost to limit the effects on [ses] customers” once it has “ensured that they are not affected by these regulatory constraints”.
Since the introduction of the first sanctions, filters have indeed been put in place in banks to check the compliance of certain transactions. “The international situation has led to tougher regulations that our entire profession is required to apply,” commented Societe Generale.
“We do manual checks. As soon as there is a doubt, our advisers call the clients concerned to verify the nature of the operations, the origin of the funds, etc., ”says a source in a bank. During this time, transactions are effectively paused.
“Not all customers of Russian origin are affected. Only those whose information is not up to date,” warns another source.
It is out of the question for banks to take the risk of being fined after letting a suspicious transaction pass. The memory of the fines of several billion euros inflicted on BNP Paribas and Société Générale for non-compliance with embargoes imposed by the United States remains etched in our memories.
The precautions taken by French banks with their customers of Russian origin are also a reminder of the difficulties they may encounter with “accidental Americans”, those French people born in the United States who have dual nationality. Obliged to collect a large number of documents in order to meet the requirements of the American tax administration and avoid heavy penalties, some establishments sometimes prefer to throw in the towel and refuse to welcome this type of client.