'The bank is unlikely to put obstacles if there is no suspicion of doubtful transactions'

Experts explained the reports about the reluctance of banks to cash out large amounts of money by the fight against money laundering

'The bank is unlikely to put obstacles if there is no suspicion of doubtful transactions'
Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

In February, reports of banks refusing to issue large amounts of more than 600,000 rubles to customers without confirming the origin of the money have become more frequent in Russia. However, the experts interviewed by Realnoe Vremya refute the information that the phenomenon is widespread, rather the opposite — we are talking about rare and really justified refusals in connection with the new amendments to the law on countering the laundering of proceeds from crime. Moreover, according to them, today banks do not want to keep the savings of depositors on deposits — it is unprofitable, and every case of refusal is a blow to the credit institution's reputation. In what situations banks actually have the right to refuse customers — read more in our material.

Bank doubts and checks

In social networks, rumours have been actively exaggerated that banks purposefully and systematically refuse to withdraw large amounts of money. As it is known, such rumours themselves can cause mass panic under certain conditions.

“Now, if you have a deposit of more than 600,000 rubles and you want to withdraw it, you will need to confirm the origin of these funds," popular bloggers claim one after another.

Realnoe Vremya turned to the experts of the banking sector with the question: to what extent such reports correspond to reality, and in what cases the bank can really refuse to issue funds to the client.

Pavel Samiev, the director general of the Businessdrom analytical agency, chairman of the committee Opory Rossii on financial markets, ex-managing director of the National Rating Agency (NRA), notes that such rumours are not for the first and not the last time. However, in almost every of the problematic cases that cause such rumours, there are always certain “buts”:

“It turns out, for example, that a person tried to withdraw a very large amount at once. Not 600,000 rubles, but, let's say, 10 million rubles. In such cases, the bank simply asked to show documents about their origin. Sometimes it was the cases when a person received certain of the funds within two days, and he tried to withdraw them. But that banks systematically ask all customers about the origin of their money — I have not heard this.”

But does the bank have the right to request such information? According to Samiev, it has — according to Federal Law 115-FZ “On countering the legalisation (laundering) of proceeds from crime and the financing of terrorism”. However, the client does not have to submit any official documents on the origin of the money to the bank's request, the expert says: it is enough to simply provide a justification for what kind of income it is and explain in a free form, for example, “the salary deposited to the account, or income from the sale of an apartment”.

Besides, just a month ago, Russian banks were banned from refusing service without explanation. The credit institution shall not be entitled to refuse to open a customer account on the sole ground that he is in the “black list” of individuals faced with refusals at another bank: first the bank should request additional documents confirming the legality of the source of funds, and if only not received, they can refuse service. The new bill is aimed at eliminating the possibility of abuse by banks when they suspect that a client is involved in laundering criminal proceeds.

The expert notes that the withdrawal of a large amount from the accounts takes place in two cases. The most popular case: if a large purchase is expected, and it will be carried out by cash payment. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Transactions on apartments and cars require cash — hence the questions of banks

“Another thing is that then the bank may begin to doubt the information and demand official documentation. But I think that the bank is unlikely to officially put such obstacles if it does not suspect doubtful transactions," Pavel Samiev believes.

The expert notes that the withdrawal of a large amount from the accounts takes place in two cases. The most popular case: if a large purchase is expected, and it will be carried out by cash payment. At the same time, according to Samiev, this is still the case with many real estate transactions — it is cash that is needed. Car dealerships also require additional fees when paying with cards: that is, when buying a car, you have to withdraw cash and a lot of it. The second case is extreme: if a bank panic begins, when customers begin to withdraw deposits en masse.

“But now it is not the case. There is a certain flow of deposits in real estate, in stock securities — but this happens just in a calm way, without withdrawing large amounts of money. From a bank account to a brokerage account, by bank transfer.”

Banks don't really need deposits today

According to the analyst, the cases of the bank's refusal to cash money without any questions are mostly related to the fight against the laundering of illegal funds. It is possible that the Central Bank has increased pressure on Russian banks.

Vladislav Kochetkov, the president and chairperson of the management board of FINAM Investment Holding JSC, confirmed to Realnoe Vremya that in recent years Russia has really stepped up the fight against money laundering, illegal funds, and the cashing of funds of unknown origin. Therefore, it is not surprising that there may be cases that money was deposited into the client's account at a time when there was no such struggle (on a similar scale), and the bank that opened the account did not ask about the sources of origin, it is even possible that this was the policy of this bank.

“As far as I know, there are such cases, including from our clients. But yet such banking practices are not systematic, it happens in extreme cases," says Kochetkov. “Today, when 'depositing big money', the bank not only has the right but even is obliged to send a request about their origin. But if it missed it at the time, it may require you to provide the source of their origin when withdrawing funds.”

However, the analyst notes, from the point of view of the current economic situation, it is definitely unprofitable for banks the policy of mass refusals to withdraw large amounts. For the simple reason that Russian banks are now being in a situation of “excess liquidity, they do not really need these deposits”. Some banks, on the contrary, are even pursuing a policy of reducing their deposit base, low deposit rates — this is a direct confirmation.

“This is definitely not an attempt to leave money in the bank at any cost. This is exactly the implementation of the instructions of the Central Bank and Rosfinmonitoring in part of countering legalisation.”

Questions arise when making transfers from one-day firms

The head of the analytical department of the Bank of Corporate Finance, Maksim Osadchy, before responding to the request of Realnoe Vremya, spoke with a lawyer, the deputy chairman of one of the Russian banks, and assures that there is no mass campaign to prevent the return of large amounts of money to customers today. Especially on suspicion of money laundering, the expert notes:

“There are one-time cases when the bank has suspicions. The client just received money, a fairly large amount, for example, related to the client's business activities, but the money came to the client as an individual — several million, or even tens of millions of rubles. And the client, an individual, wants to immediately cash them, withdraw this money. At the same time, the company that transferred this money to him clearly looks like a one-day deal for the bank, the turnover is completely incomparable with the scale of the company — and it is clear that we are talking about “cash-out”. In this case, the bank will quite naturally block this operation.”

Maksim Osadchy draws attention to that such situation is completely unprofitable for banks (especially on a massive scale): each such case is “a big blow to the reputation”.

“Banks' main asset is not money, but reputation. Failure to return money to the client, even on the basis of Federal Law No. 115 “On countering the legalization (laundering) of proceeds from crime and the financing of terrorism”, is a very, very serious situation. [If such cases are frequent] — customers will simply turn away from the bank.”

By Sergey Afanasyev