The case of Scotia Bank, dangerous precedent that threatens other nations

Campaign News | Saturday, 8 April 2006

Canadian bank in Jamaica says it can no longer hold dollars for Cuban Embassy

Havana 7 April: THE power of the U.S. dollar as the principal currency of international business is now being used to pressure Cuba even more under the guise of the Patriot Act and could easily be used to exclude others from the international market, warned the Kingston Jamaica Gleaner daily.

In an editorial published on Tuesday 4 regarding the Canadian Scotia Bank case, the daily criticized the bank for announcing, through its branch in Jamaica, that it will no longer provide money transaction services in U.S. dollars with Cuba, invoking the U.S. law to which it has been subjected.

There is no Jamaican law that prohibits embassies from managing accounts in whatever currency in banks operating in this country," emphasized the publication.

The sovereign government of Jamaica maintains diplomatic relations with Cuba, for which we do not need, nor have we asked, permission from the United States.

Referring to the Patriot Act, supposedly conceived for the war on terror, the Gleaner pointed out that the international community does not consider or recognize Cuba as a terrorist threat to any nation.

The question of the termination of the U.S. dollar accounts of the Cuban embassy is significantly broader than a simple private banking issue or even another dimension of the United States-Cuba conflict, the editorial continues, because it obliges the Jamaican government to take the issue to diplomatic level.

The threat is not only toward Cuba, but also toward our own sovereignty, concluded the important Jamaican daily.

The Canadian Network on Cuba solidarity coalition has advised the Scotia Bank that it has asked its 55,000 members to close their accounts with this institution and to urgently alert their elected representatives to this interference. Cancellations have been reported since this call to action.

US Forces anti-Cuba action on Canadian bank

Havana, Apr 2 (Prensa Latina) Cuban Parliament Speaker Ricardo Alarcon has accused the US government of forcing the Jamaican branch of Canada?s Bank of Nova Scotia to cancel services to the Cuban embassy in Kingston.

Alarcon told the National Information Agency (AIN) that the BNS told Ambassador Gisela Garcia Rivero it could no longer provide financial services to the Cuban embassy under the US Patriot Act.

The Patriot Act was passed after the 9/11, 2001 attacks in the US to reinforce Federal and law enforcement powers in the anti-terror drive, both the US and overseas.

Alarcon denounced that Washington ordered the bank to extend banking and financial blockade on Cuba, violating Jamaican and Canadian laws and overstepping those countries? sovereignties.

He defined as "reinforcement of the blockade" recent orders from the US Treasury to evict Cuban officials from the Maria Isabel Sheraton Hotel in Mexico. Mexican authorities later imposed a heavy fine on the US-owned resort for evicting the Cuban energy officials who had a meeting scheduled there with American energy executives.

In another example of the economic war on Cuba, Alarcon referred to the US administration preventing the Cuban ballplayers from collecting their prices as World Baseball Classic runner up, which they had donated to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Fear of US Patriot Act forces bank to close Cuban account

Jamaica, 29 March: The Bank of Nova Scotia (BNS) yesterday defended its decision to cease holding US dollar accounts in Jamaica for the Cuban Embassy, citing the United States Patriot Act, which allows US authorities to seize accounts held by the offending institutions in their correspondent banks in the USA.

"We are not bound by the US Patriot Act but we think it is prudent of us to be mindful the laws governing our correspondent bank in the US," David Noel, senior vice-president, legal and compliance, at BNS told the Business Observer yesterday.

Noel explained that banks in Jamaica which provide US currency facilities, must maintain an account with a correspondent bank in the USA.

"Any wire transfer or drafts relating to that account would have to pass through the US correspondent bank, which would be governed by the US laws," he said. "If money passes through that account for any country on the US sanctions list, it is required for that bank to freeze that account and hand over the money to the US government."

BNS' decision, according Noel, was designed to mitigate the effect that these laws could have on its operation.

"In the event of funds being frozen someone would have to take the loss," he said.

Countries on the US sanctions list include North Korea, Cuba and Iran.

Another institution, FirstCaribbean Bank, was yesterday equally cautious about accepting US-dollar accounts for countries on the US sanctions list.

"We are governed by the same regulations as the other banks," said Milton Brady, managing director of FirstCaribbean. "It is for the compliance functionaries of each bank to interpret those rules and implement them in their banks. They are quite specific and failure to comply could even result in a bank losing its licence."

Early March, in a letter to the Cuban ambassador to Jamaica Garcia Rivera, BNS indicated that it would no longer operate a US-dollar account for the embassy in compliance with the dictates of US Patriot Act relating to US dollar transactions.

The new procedures, BNS said, would require it to convert to local currency all US deposits made by the embassy. The bank recommended that the Cuban Embassy hold a local currency account and purchase US dollars when required.

"We also advise that excess funds in your account can be reconverted into US dollar cash in the normal course of business, subjected to the local authorisation process, which includes availability," the BNS letter said.

In response, the Cuban Embassy said it was "shocked and surprised at this turn of events" as BNS Jamaica was complying with an order of their superiors that was handed down as a result of the US Patriot Act and not the law of Jamaica.

"As far as we know the US Patriot Act was adopted by the Congress of the US and signed by the president as law for US and not for the world," the letter said.

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