What are we campaigning against?
Banks in Britain and Europe enforce the illegal US blockade of Cuba despite UK and European laws which are supposed to stop this.
Banks have been obstructing financial transactions of UK bank accounts which either engage with Cuba or refer to Cuba. For example, HSBC ‘inhibited’ the account of Cubanos En UK (Cubans in the UK), a community association raising funds to send medical equipment to Cuba. After this was denounced publicly and protests were called, HSBC unblocked the account, but Cuba remains on the bank’s sanctions list.
Simply sending a bank transaction to an account in another country with the reference ‘CUBA’ can alert the internal review systems of some banks so they are required to check the purpose of the transaction, and may block the payment.
Through testing, we have found that some banks will actually reject international payments to third countries if they have any suspicion that the transaction is associated with Cuba. This behaviour is open to customer complaints and legal challenges.
How the campaign works
We want to mobilise large numbers of bank customers to send small transactions, even as small as 1 cent/1 pence from UK or European bank accounts, using reference words or destinations that are likely to trigger the banks’ sanctions mechanisms against Cuba.
Each small transaction, and subsequent complaint process, can create a burden of administrative work for the bank at minimal cost to the customer.
When combined in large quantities, these small transactions have the potential to create an unmanageable quantity of work for the banks and so make the US blockade of Cuba too costly to enforce.
Step 1: make a payment
Send an instruction to your bank (via online banking, telephone banking or in branch) to send a payment of 1c or 1p to a bank account in a foreign country.
Use the payment reference ‘CUBA’.
You can send it to one of the following:
•IBAN: CH92 0076 4301 3245 Y000 1 / BIC: BSCTCH22LUG
•IBAN: BE44 5230 8068 1645 / BIC: TRIONL2U
•IBAN: GB60 NWBK 0109 5460 5715 94 / BIC: NWBKGB2L
What to do if the bank contacts you
You may receive a phone call from the bank’s review team asking for the purpose and destination of the payment.
Answer that you understand the group you are sending money to an organisation that raises money to send medicine to Cuba, and this is a cause you want to support.
Request a record of any telephone conversation you have with the bank at the end of each phone call.
Did the payment go through?
If it appears that the bank accepted the payment, first verify it really worked: Email [email protected] and you will be able to submit a form giving the exact time and date of your transaction, and the name that would appear on the statement. We will check it went through and contact you.
If it went through, start step 1 again using a multiple transactions at once (e.g. 10 separate payments of 1c/1p) until you trigger a sanctions review process. Try the other bank accounts if there is still no result.
Step 2: Complain to the bank – Continued
Write to the bank’s complaints department by email or letter. You should be able to find the address on their website.
Your first letter of complaint should be general: start by complaining that the reason they gave for rejection is not adequate; that Cuba is not on any UK or European sanctions list; and that the US blockade of Cuba doesn’t apply to banks outside the US. Ask for a reply within five working days.
Step 2: Complain to the bank – Continued
If the bank replies, regardless of the reasons they give, you should write back complaining that they are breaking the law and that your transaction should not have been rejected. Cite the relevant UK and European laws that counteract the US blockade. Warn that you will complain to a financial regulator if no satisfying response is given.
Did it work?
If you are offered compensation, we encourage you to accept this and donate it to the #1c4Cuba local campaign in your country. The details for Britain, Ireland and Belgium are below:
See the containing folder for details of groups in other regions.
Step 3: Contact us
Whether or not the bank continues to reject the transaction, we want you to submit information about your case to the central #1c4Cuba campaign email. We will use this information to help coordinate legal challenges in each country via the relevant authorities.
Email: [email protected]