Nigel Farage says set to lose Coutts account, offered NatWest one instead

LONDON (Reuters) -Nigel Farage, the former Brexit party leader, said on Tuesday that British private bank Coutts had told him it was closing his accounts and had offered him a standard one with its parent group NatWest instead.

A source familiar with the matter, who declined to be named, told Reuters that Farage’s accounts with Coutts, which is traditionally a bank for wealthy clients and once known as ‘the Queen’s bank’, were being closed mainly for commercial reasons.

A NatWest spokesperson declined to comment.

The move comes at a time of growing public scrutiny in Britain of banks closing customer accounts, with various groups and individuals such as Farage claiming their access to services had been cut due to their political views.

The UK government has also been drawn into the debate and financial services minister Andrew Griffith told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that banks had an obligation to uphold freedom of expression.

The BBC reported earlier on Tuesday that the reason Farage was losing his Coutts accounts was because he fell below the financial threshold required to be a customer of the private bank.

Coutts’ website advises its clients should be able to borrow or invest at least 1 million pounds ($1.3 million) with the bank or hold 3 million pounds in savings.

Farage told Reuters he had not been told these thresholds by Coutts and declined to answer when asked if he met them, but said he currently had more money in his current account than he had had “for most of the last decade”.

He said he had been offered a NatWest account on June 29 after he complained publicly about losing his accounts, adding he has been given a postponement of a few weeks before his Coutts accounts are closed.

Farage said he believed his accounts were being closed because he was deemed a ‘politically exposed person’ (PEP), which means a bank needs to apply additional scrutiny. He said he had applied for an account at nine other banks and been refused.

The government has said it has passed legislation to make PEP rules less onerous, but they have not yet come into force.

($1 = 0.7863 pounds)

(Reporting by Iain Withers; Editing by Alexander Smith and Susan Fenton)