HSBC has caused havoc among foreign diplomats in the UK by telling them they will no longer hold their accounts and giving them 60 days to move their money.
Even the Vatican has been affected, with the Apostolic Nunciature in London given its marching orders after many years with the bank, it was reported.
More than 40 embassies, consulates and High Commissions are said to have been affected – with the situation made worse by the fact that other banks have also been refusing to take their business.
The Foreign Office has had to step in, contacting HSBC over the affair and making efforts to help diplomats open other accounts.
Bernard Silver, head of the Consular Corps, which represents consuls in the UK, told reporters: “HSBC’s decision has created havoc. Embassies and consulates desperately need a bank, not just to take in money for visas and passports, but to pay staff wages, rent bills, even the congestion charge.”
John Belavu, minister at the Papua New Guinea High Commission, told the Mail on Sunday: “We’ve been banking with HSBC for 22 years and for them to throw us off in this way was a bombshell.”
HSBC said its decision was part of an assessment of business customers under which they must meet five criteria – “international connectivity, economic development, profitability, cost efficiency and liquidity”
One diplomat said it was unclear what these criteria meant but another said he believed the bank feared being exposed to embassies after being caught up in a costly money laundering scandal.