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Nigel Farage has been told his accounts at the elite bank Coutts will be closed down and shifted to an account at high street lender NatWest.
The former Brexit party leader last week said that an unnamed “prestigious” bank had shut his accounts and suggested “the establishment” was “trying to force me out of the UK” because of his political views. Farage on Tuesday confirmed that the bank was Coutts.
However, two people close to the situation noted that Coutts — once known as the “Queen’s bank” — had financial eligibility criteria that could explain an account closure: clients are required to save more than £3mn or borrow or invest more than £1mn. NatWest, which is part of the same group, has no such criteria.
One of those people said Farage had redeemed his Coutts mortgage earlier, reducing his business with the bank below the threshold.
Asked about this, Farage said: “You seem to know more than me.” He confirmed he had paid off his Coutts mortgage early and declined to say whether he now met the criteria.
Farage claims the more likely reason for the closure of his accounts is that he is on a list of “politically exposed people”, a regulatory regime that requires banks to carry out extra checks on elected politicians and their families in case they are open to foreign bribery.
His complaints have been taken up by fellow rightwing politicians and newspaper columnists and a Home Office minister has described closing bank accounts on political grounds as “completely unacceptable”.
One of the people close to the situation said Coutts and NatWest have the same standards to decide whether a customer is a so-called PEP. The additional cost at monitoring PEPs can influence whether a bank decides to retain a customer.
Farage, also former leader of the UK Independence party, told the FT that an official from Coutts rang him last Thursday at 6.55pm after he threatened to go public on his GB News show about the closure of his accounts.
He claims Coutts has not told him why it was closing down his personal and business accounts at the bank. “They said I could have a personal account at NatWest and they’d think about a business account.”
He added: “Are they backtracking? Yes. They are panicking.” NatWest has been approached for comment.
He said his lawyers had made “special access requests” to international ratings bodies and had established that both he and his company had PEP status.
“I asked Coutts about this on Thursday and they said they did not think I had PEP status,” he said. “Very clearly I do.”
One of the people close to the situation said Farage was classed by NatWest Group as a “low-risk PEP”.
Farage said on Tuesday he had previously banked with NatWest for 30 years but it had told him it could not provide him with currency services — he was previously paid in euros as a member of the European parliament — and suggested he move to Coutts.