JP Morgan Chase shuns diplomatic banking

Jan. 13, 2011 at 5:19 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 13 (UPI) -- JP Morgan Chase said it plans to stop serving foreign diplomats in the United States, advising them to open new bank accounts elsewhere.

In a recent letter to members of the foreign diplomatic corps, the bank said, "We recommend that you open a bank account with another financial institution, and begin using it immediately in order to minimize any disruption," The Washington Post reported Thursday.

JP Morgan Chase did not give any explanation for the move. Some have said the bank is being cautious given heightened federal concern over potential money laundering and support for terrorists, the Post said.

"Dealing with a foreign government is more complex than dealing with Joe's Pizza Parlor," said Patrick Kennedy, an undersecretary of state for management who was scheduled to meet with officials at the United Nations Thursday to discuss banking options for diplomats.

Several other banks also have said they would pull away from serving foreign diplomats, the Post said. Bank of America in November said it would close five accounts opened by the Angolan Embassy in Washington.

Diplomats are worried other banks could follow suit.

"What happened with Chase can also hurt us," Congo's ambassador to the United Nations, Atoki Ileka, said.

Ileka said Citibank is tightening its scrutiny of the Congo's bank accounts. "Sometimes when they see I have an unexpected amount of money coming in they call me to ask where it has come from. It's a bit humiliating, but we have to be very calm and very diplomatic to deal with these kinds of issues," he said.

In its letter, JP Morgan Chase said it would close services to diplomats March 31.

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