HSBC bank is to follow its competitors Barclays in closing the bank accounts of the Ummah Welfare Trust (UWT), a Muslim-run charity which has previously been accused, though cleared, of having links to terrorism. The non-profit, which describes itself as an “international relief and development charity”, has perviously given money to Interpal – an organisation designated by the US Treasury in 2003 as one of several groups providing “support” to Gaza-based terrorist outfit Hamas.
The UWT announced this week: “As the attacks intensify in Gaza and innocent people continue to be killed, HSBC Bank has issued a two-month notice to Ummah Welfare Trust to close down its accounts. This is similar to what Barclays did to Ummah Welfare Trust during the previous Gaza war in 2008. A notice then was also served for the charity to close its accounts.”
The group is now encouraging a social media boycott campaign entitled, “#LobbyHSBCForGaza” – a similar approach to the failed attempt to boycott Barclays bank in 2008 for taking similar action against it.
Six years ago, the UK-based bank gave the UWT 30 days to close its bank accounts and move its business elsewhere. In 2002, Britain’s Charity Commission (the country’s third sector regulator) froze the UWT’s accounts while it investigated a potential misuse of funds in Kashmir. The eight-month enquiry cleared the group, though sources reported at the time that banks were wary of falling foul of the United States’ anti-terrorism funding laws, and were, as a result, being overly cautious.
The concerns over UWT stem from its support for Interpal, a charity previously banned in the United States, Canada, and Australia over fears that it funded the Hamas terrorist group in Gaza. The UWT’s accounts previously showed that from the period 2004-08, the charity issued more than £200,000 in grants to the Palestinian territories and Lebanon, via Interpal.
Critics have also pointed out that the UWT has worked with the Al-Salah Islamic Association, listed by the US Treasury Department as “one of the largest and best-funded Hamas charitable organisations in the Palestinian territories”.
But the UWT refutes all the allegations levelled at it. It stated this week: “This came as a shock to the charity as it has been banking with HSBC since 2008. At no stage did HSBC show concerns about the charity’s accounts.”
A letter from HSBC to the UWT claims that the charity falls “outside of [their] risk appetite”.