Bank may close Moroccan quake victim charity account

Photo: Dutch News

A charity raising money for the victims of the earthquake in Morocco is fighting ING bank’s decision to close the account over money laundering doubts.

Foundation Najiba, a Dutch Islamic charity, has already raised some €900,000 but will be unable to receive more donations or finance help for the stricken area if the ING finalises its intention to close the bank account by the end of October, charity organisers fear.

The ING claims the charity’s administration is “not up to scratch” and is employing an “untrustworthy accountant”, the Financieele Dagblad said.

The charity has hired lawyers Jasper Hagers and Lisa Jie Sam Foek to fight the decision and may ask the court for a summary judgement if the bank does not relent. “Closing the account would spell the end of the charity. But it’s much worse for all those people in Morocco needing help,” Jie Sam Foek told the paper.

A spokesman for ING said the bank gives clients “plenty of time to answer our questions and provide information. If they fail to do this, or only partly, we are obliged to say goodbye,” but would not comment further.

An investigation by the FD found that the charity filed an annual report with the chamber of commerce in 2021 that was never approved while big outgoings, such as € 273,000 for a thousand sheep on behalf of a local project, were not specified. The charity has since appointed an accountant but, the FD said, he is a suspect in a fraud involving millions in coronavirus subsidies.

Hagers said the charity did not know about the accusations against the accountant, who was not available for comment.

The charity’s financial management was going to be the subject of a lawsuit earlier this year. “That was settled outside of court at the time and the bank account could remain open if improvements were made. That happened,” Hagers said.

The FD said the case illustrates the tension caused by strict money laundering rules between banks and charities. New guidelines issued by the Dutch banking association should make life easier for charities providing they are transparent and certified.

Both requirements are being worked on by Najiba, Hagers said.

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