The tightening of rules surrounding money laundering continue to filter down , with a woman denied withdrawal of cash without presenting evidence of what it will be used for before escorted out of the premises by police.
Bank of Valletta’s Mosta branch played host to a tense incident on Thursday morning, as a woman attempted to first transfer, then withdraw funds for an alleged car purchase.
However, both the transfer and the withdrawal were denied, and when the woman refused to leave without her money, police was called to escort her out.
The woman’s ordeal began on Wednesday, when, she says, she went to the branch to ask for a transfer to a local IBAN number for the car purchase. She says she was denied permission to do so without presentation of evidence of the purchase, and she accepted the condition and left the bank.
She then returned on Thursday morning with the logbook of the car in question, which purportedly showed the transfer of ownership taking place the previous day.
She says that this was not accepted as sufficient evidence by the bank, so she instead asked for a transfer as a gift, with the understanding that a gift would carry no burden of evidence since none would exist.
Once this option was rebutted, the woman decided to simply withdraw cash to make the payment accordingly.
However, she says that bank staff once again asked her for evidence as to what the money would be used for, since the bank’s auditors would require a record of this evidence.
The woman, outraged, said that she should not require evidence of what she would be using the money for, highlighting the fact that in a banking relationship going back three decades, she had never met this level of invasion of privacy.
She then asked for a lower amount, only to be refused once again.
The woman says that bank staff then informed her of a limit on cash withdrawals over a six month period of €10,000, although she contests that she had surpassed this figure.
Changing strategy, she told bank staff to forget about the car payment, and requested a withdrawal of €5000 for her husband, a well established mechanic, to buy parts.
She says that bank staff then pointed out that she was being inconsistent about both the amount and the reason for the withdrawal, although she claims that this inconsistency was born of a simple desire to access her own money.
At this point, police from the Mosta station arrived to calm the situation, and asked the bank staff to explain what level of evidence they would accept as sufficient for a bank transfer for a car purchase.
Bank staff explained that a signed document from the seller stating that a car with a defined registration number would be sold for a defined amount to a buyer would be such sufficient evidence, adding that it should also contain both persons’ ID numbers and the seller’s account number.
The woman then left the branch without managing to transfer or withdraw any money.
Speaking to BusinessNow.mt, the woman asked why the bank needs to know what she will be using her own money for.
“I’ve taken out money from many banks for many years, and they have never asked what I am using it for,” she says.
“I’ve been banking there for 30 years,” she added. “I can’t believe I’ve been treated like this today.”
Contacted for comment, Bank of Valletta disputed the woman’s version of events, but refused to comment on the particular incident.
It said that, “like every other financial institution, the Bank is obliged to ensure that cash withdrawals, like any other banking transaction, are legitimate and compliant with Anti Money Laundering and Counter Terrorism Financing Regulations.”
“The Bank cannot comment on the internal processes, but additional information or supporting documents in relation to cash withdrawals may be requested. In addition, it should be noted as well the prohibition of payments of over €10,000 for purposes specified in Legal Notice 81 of 2021.”
Legal Notice 81 of 2021 set a limit on cash payments for sales of property, cars and valuable items in a bid to clamp down on money laundering and tax evasion.
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