Islamic Relief: Not Welcome at UBS and CS

Islamic Relief

Islamic Relief

HSBC cut its ties to the Islamic Relief charity more than a year ago because it was concerned about the possible damage to its reputation. The two biggest Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, have done the same.

Islamic Relief is a charity recognized by Westminster and runs projects in more than 40 countries. HSBC, the Anglo-Chinese banking giant, wasn't moved by these facts and removed the organization from its list of customers.

HSBC's decision came as early as at the end of 2014, a report by the «Sunday Times» showed (by subscription only). The bank explained the cut with the charity's work in «high-risk regions». The newspaper however suggests that the institute was more worried about being linked to terrorist financing.

UBS Acted Even Earlier

Islamic Relief rebutted such links in a reply to the report. The organization, which also runs projects in Gaza and Syria, said it was surprised by the decision, but didn't want to take legal action.

HSBC wasn't the only big bank to cut ties to Islamic Relief in recent years. UBS in 2012 took the decision to cut business relations and henceforth stopped all charitable donations for the organization using its accounts.

The decision wasn't based on «religious or political» grounds, the bank told Swiss newspaper «20 Minuten» at the time. UBS said it apologized to donators and the Islamic Relief Association for the difficulties they faced due to the decision. And stuck to the cut of ties.

Credit Suisse Follows Suit

Credit Suisse in the meantime followed suit, research by finews.ch showed. As late as in 2014, CS was still working with the charity. In its call for donations in that year, Islamic Relief asked for money to be sent to two accounts: one hosted by Postfinance, the other by Credit Suisse.

What's left is the banking relationship with Postfinance, the finance arm of Swiss Post, as Jamal Krafess, head of the Swiss branch of Islamic Relief in Geneva, told finews.ch. «There are no more transactions with Credit Suisse,» Krafess said.

Postfinance is the bank of choice for Islamic Relief, used for most transactions in Switzerland. Postfinance doesn't comment its business with individual clients, but said that out of principal it acted according to laws and regulations when opening a business relationship, when asked for a comment by finews.ch. It also said that it could cut its ties should it detect a problematic relationship.

An Organization Under Pressure

Islamic Relief, though recognized as a charity, has frequently come under pressure for its efforts in the Middle East. Israel for instance ejected the organization from the West Bank in 2014 on charges that the charity was secretly supporting Hamas.

And the United Arab Emirates has put Islamic Relief on a list of banned organizations, which may have prompted HSBC to act in the first place.

Islamic Relief's Krafess said that the conditions for its banking relationships had become more difficult in recent years, urging the financial services industry to apply more reasonable risk parameters in their business with charities.

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