PHILIPSBURG – Member of Parliament Rolando Brison, in his capacity of Chairman of the TEATT Committee of Parliament, will soon convene an urgent meeting with the St. Maarten Banker’s Association in an effort to get a clear explanation as to why the banks are preventing persons from opening accounts and in other cases closing accounts of customers.
“We need clear answers, too many people and businesses are being negatively affected and so will the economy of the country,” the MP stressed. “If we cannot get clarity, then there might be a need for the committee to seriously consider amending and/or revoking bank licenses. Banks are literally acting against the constitution of St. Maarten and depriving its citizens of their rights with ever-changing regulations or application procedures of these regulations, seemingly on a whim.”
While some banks have claimed that their methods are based on central bank regulation and other laws, several meetings with the central bank and legal review have pointed to the contrary. “The banks are going way beyond the scope of central bank laws and regulations to infringe on the privacy and rights of citizens and business people. The banks are effectively acting like the Minister of TEATT: as it is ultimately their decisions that affect whether business in St. Maarten can do business or not. This needs to stop!”
Brison said he has been approached by several persons, regular citizens and business people who are beyond frustrated with what seems like ever-changing rules and regulations of the banks. The most drastic of actions, is the apparent barring of citizens to open accounts and citizens suddenly being told that their accounts will be closed.
The MP asked if St. Maarten has to endure yet another embarrassing international spectacle before the rights of citizens are respected. “Do we once again have to wait for a European court, as was in the case of human rights violations at the detention center, to tell us we are in violation?” MP Brison asked citing the EU regulation which stipulates the right of a legal EU resident to open a bank account.
“Is it going to take the internationally embarrassing situation of a citizen having to go to the European courts and show how these banks are infringing on their fundamental right of having a bank account? Also, do we want to create the very unsafe and ill-advised practice of residents maintaining so called “home banks” because of the unclear actions of the banks in dis-allowing them to open an account, something they have a right to? We need answers,” the MP said.
The urgent meeting will also focus on recently passed laws, namely; The national ordinance on the reporting obligation for cross-border money movement, the national ordinance on the reporting of unusual transactions and the national ordinance on money laundering and financing of terrorism.
“While typically the Finance Committee has met with the Banker’s Association, being that this is potentially affecting business license holder’s, we want to meet with them more from an economic affairs perspective rather than from a general country finance perspective,” MP Brison said.
“We want to update the bankers of the legislation and ascertain as to whether the banks are prepared to implement these laws in such a way that do not unnecessarily hurt the ability of business license holders to do banking in St. Maarten.
He added that the committee would like to discuss the forced closure of bank accounts in the context of the above mentioned draft legislation and the EU regulation which stipulates the right of a legal EU resident to open a bank account.