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Banks freeze thousands of accounts

Published on 26/11/2004

26 November 2004

BRUSSELS – Thousands of Belgian bank accounts are being frozen under laws designed to crack down on money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The banks say they are freezing the accounts because customers have not responded to requests to provide ID.

Belgian law now obliges banks to be able to “identify their clients and check their identity” through a valid document, of which a copy must be taken.

On Thursday, the Flemish daily newspaper De Tijd reported that Delta Lloyd had already blocked 14,000 accounts.

The bank insisted that it had made several attempts to talk to customers about the accounts, but they had not replied to letters or phone calls.

“If a customer has an account frozen, he only has to go to the bank with a copy of his ID card and his assets will be immediately released,” said Vic Moeyersoons, a spokesman for Delta Lloyd.

The banks estimate that some 100,000 Belgians need to take proper papers along to their branches in order to comply with the law.

However, consumer watchdog Test-Achats says it is concerned about the way banks are applying the legislation.

“We have received complaints from people affected by this measure,” said spokesman Jean-Philippe Ducart.

“Since the law isn’t very precise, some banks have been demanding the presence of customers at the bank with the copy being made at the branch, while others have been happy with a copy sent in the post.

The consumer has been confused.”

[Copyright Expatica 2004]

Subject: Belgian news