STA, 18 March 2022 - A Cuban woman living and working in Slovenia has been discriminated against by a bank, which without warning closed her account because of her nationality, the equality ombudsman has found. It appears that more than one Cuban citizen has been subjected to such treatment.
The Cuban national has been living and working in Slovenia for at least a decade. She has a permanent residence in Slovenia and has no contact with Cuba. As for her Cuban citizenship, she explained that under Cuban law it cannot be easily renounced, Advocate of the Principle of Equality Miha Lobnik said.
She submitted a discrimination complaint with the ombudsman's office after her personal bank account was closed by the bank without explanation or notice, saying this happened on the grounds of her ethnic origin and citizenship.
When she asked the bank for an explanation, it replied that it had unilaterally terminated the bank account agreement in order to adapt its operations to US standards to prevent money laundering and terrorism financing.
The ombudsman assessed that the bank had pursued a legitimate objective in seeking to manage money laundering and terrorism financing risks. However, he also found that the closure of the client's bank account was only partly appropriate and not the only possible or even proportionate measure.
Lobnik confirmed that the bank had indeed discriminated against the Cuban citizen in access to services on the basis of her personal circumstances of nationality.
"The anti-discrimination authority also learned that US regulations do indeed restrict financial institutions from doing business with Cuban citizens, but only if they live in Cuba or have business ties with Cuba," the press release by the ombudsman's office says, adding that notwithstanding the US and potential other restrictions, banks in Slovenia must comply with the Slovenian constitution and other regulations banning discrimination.
The newspaper Delo reported on Friday this was a wider problem since at least seven Cuban citizens living in Slovenia have been reportedly subjected to such treatment by the banks.
Musician and teacher Lazaro Hierrezuelo, who has been living and working in Slovenia since 2010, told the paper that both his personal and business accounts had been closed due to what his bank phrased as a new policy demanded by the new owner and under which they were not allowed to do business with Cuban citizens. At least three other banks subsequently refused his and his compatriots' requests to open accounts, he added.
The ombudsman recently found that a Syrian man living in Slovenia had been discriminated against by a financial company, which did not enable him to use its services.