TD closes bank accounts as part of Iran sanctions
Published Thursday, July 12, 2012 11:29AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 12, 2012 8:18PM EDT
Several Iranian-Canadians say they were not given any notice before their bank accounts were closed by TD Canada Trust, according to the Iranian-Canadian Congress.
The group said the closures were in response to Canadian sanctions against Iran, but many account holders affected by the bank say they haven’t violated any of the sanction’s provisions.
“If the Canadian government or by extension Canadian companies want to punish the Iranian government, which is a brutal dictatorship, by all means they should do so,” said Iranian-Canadian Congress vice president Kaveh Shahrooz during an interview with CTV News Channel.
“But we’re worried about ordinary people, pensioners and students and so on, becoming collateral damage in this.”
Shahrooz said a number of Iranian-Canadians who have contacted the congress said they haven’t had any interaction with Iranian banks since the sanctions were announced last November.
Others have made transfers between banks that were within the exemptions provided by the sanctions, such as pension payments, for example.
“The people whose accounts have been closed have taken a financial hit in some cases, but mostly I think people are just upset that they’re being treated as second-class citizens,” said Shahrooz.
A spokesperson for TD Canada Trust told CTVNews.ca that each case affected by Canada’s economic sanctions was reviewed individually and customers were either called or contacted through registered mail before their accounts were closed.
“In many cases, we did not hear back from them and based on the information on file, we had to apply the regulations and close the accounts,” said TD spokesperson Barbara Timmins.
Timmins could not comment on complaints stemming from the sanctions, but she said that decisions to end customer relationships “are not undertaken lightly.”
Shahrooz said TD contacted the congress Wednesday to set up a meeting to discuss the closures.
“The message we’re hoping to deliver to TD is to let them know the community is upset about this and to let them know that innocent people are likely being harmed by this decision,” he said.
The group said it would like to work out a process to properly inform TD members as to why their account is being closed, and also develop a process for account holders who’ve had their accounts wrongly closed to seek some sort of recourse.
Shahrooz said he hasn’t heard of any other Canadian banks closing the accounts of Canadian-Iranians.
He could not say exactly how many TD accounts holders have been affected by the closures, but said the congress has heard from Canadians from coast to coast.
“I think it’s pretty wide spread.”
Canada joined the United States and Britain in slapping new sanctions on Iran last November. Previous sanctions included prohibiting the export of arms and related material as well as banning new investment in the country's oil and gas sector.
At the time, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said the sanctions would affect Iran’s banking system.
In a statement to CTVNews.ca, the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) said every bank develops its own policies and procedures to ensure it’s complying with economic sanctions.
“There are a number of international sanctions and Canadian regulations in place to prohibit some financial and business activities with Iranian individuals, banks, companies and government institutions,” wrote Rachel Swiednicki of the CBA.
She said the Canadian sanctions were strengthened in January.