the Russians’ misfortune with the banks in France

The war in Ukraine and the international sanctions against Russia seem to be affecting dozens of simple Russian citizens in France.

Would French banks, under the guise of the war in Ukraine and the consequent international sanctions against Russia, have their eyes fixed on all Russian citizens living in France without distinction? This is what dozens of simple Russian bankers in France have condemned for days, scandalized about seeing transfers blocked or even being denied the opening of an account. Sometimes for no stated reason, but often under the pretext of their nationality.

As it was the end of the month, I only had 31 euros left in my current account, so I wanted to transfer money between my A booklet and my current accountSays Anastasia, 31 years old. The young woman therefore goes as usual to the online area of ​​her bank, Société Générale, but there is an error message during the foggy reason of “unpaid credit objection“.”I immediately called my adviser, who referred me to the branch manager. She told me that my transfers were blocked because I was Russian considering the political situation. And that the only solution was to go to an agency‘Explains him who has lived in France for two and a half years. Then she can not hold back the tears, faced with a situation she considers “very shocking“.

Katia *, 28, says she felt “humiliated, discriminated againstwhen she received a written response from her counselor. “Due to geopolitical events, we are obliged to comply with the rules on accounts belonging to customers of Russian origin“, she wrote to him, adding that”For now, all credit transfers to your accounts must go through the agency“. a practice”coarse“and”arbitrary», Considers Michel Guillaud, President of the Association for the Defense of Bankers France Conso Banque. Léna *, a 63-year-old French-Russian, is obliged to insist to her bank, CIC, to gift her to give her an explanation. “The head of the agency was uncomfortable. He told me: “We are in a somewhat fragile situation because you are of Russian origin. So we have to manually validate all the financial transactions you make“”, says this sworn legal expert.

No discrimination according to the banks

On social networks, testimonies of this nature multiply, evoking in particular Société Générale, but also BNP Paribas or Crédit Mutuel / CIC. The head of the Russian news channel RT France, Xenia Fedorova, also accused the Societe Generale on Wednesday of having “blocked the private accounts (which are paid for) the salaries of several of our Russian employees in France“, on his Telegram channel in Russian. On this encrypted messaging service, a group of victims of this practice was set up, which now has more than 1,000 members. They are seeking to organize to initiate collective actions against the banks in question. A collection of signatures The site was also launched on Monday and has since been signed by more than 2,000 people.

Banks deny any discrimination against Russian citizens. The main question is confirmed by Société Générale Figaro not to block or close accounts of persons not subject to European sanctions. She justifies her Russian customers’ misfortune with “banking rules that require verification of customer dataMore extensive controls are currently under way due to the international sanctions against Russia that European banking institutions will have to apply. In some cases, they may lead todelays or blockages“, admits Societe Generale,”if the customer has not updated his personal data“. The contact puts forward the same argument to the Finance Directorate.”With regard to transfers, the current sanction system obviously entails increased due diligence on the part of the banksExplains the management associated with Bercy. On the part of BNP Paribas, we insist that “there is no different treatment of any nationality“.”We continue to exercise our duty of constant supervision and ensure compliance with the statutory obligations that apply to all banks“, she adds.

The problem may then lie in the lack of communication from banking institutions to Russian users, who are sometimes left alone to face their questions and fears. “My bank just says to me “I do not know why it is blocked”, “I have escalated the problem, the blockade must be lifted by Paris, it may take a few more days, I will notify you as soon as possible”. And she ignores me , when I ask for explanationsSays Irina *, 27 years old. And those who ultimately pull out an explanation claim not to have been warned in advance about the new policy of their establishment. Hence their concern when they saw their transfers “disappearovernight. “Of course, it causes problems in my daily life because I do not get my salary while I have to pay my rent, my electricity bill, etc. And how can I do that without pay?asks Irina *.

Refusal to open an account

Since then, some Russian citizens have had their problem solved after submitting several administrative documents. Sometimes at the request of the company itself, as Andreï, 26, of Belarusian citizenship, whose adviser asked him for his tax return and his paycheck. “She told me that my account was blocked because documents were missing from my file“, she says. Alexandra *, a 23-year-old Russian citizen, had to find a solution. Together with her husband, she turned to a lawyer. Then, when the bank had not asked him for anything, she sent him his residence permit and his tax return. . “That was what made it possible to unblock the situation“, Assures Franck *, her husband.

In addition, some say they were fired when they tried to open a new account. After her disappointment with Société Générale, Anastasia says she approached BNP Paribas with her French companion to open a joint account. Without more success. “The bank told us that we could not open a joint account there given the political context because there is a Russian citizen on the account.»

Everything related to Russia today seems to scare French banks away. Antoine can testify to that. The young man, who previously worked in Moscow at the French University College for three years, encountered rejections or silences from French banks when he asked to open a bank account for the for Russian students, which he wanted to set up. “One of them told me that the Russian side was a problem“, he tells. A complete legal practice, recalls Me Florian Desbos, a lawyer in Lyon, a specialist in bankruptcy, since “banks are free to refuse to open an account, they do not have to justify their decision“. Closed doors, which also faced Ukrainian refugees, notes Michel Guillaud from the association France Conso Banque. What the banks dispute, especially BNP Paribas, which claims to have”usually open accounts in all our regions since the start of the conflict“.

* Name has been changed.

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