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Ukrainian Banks Soliciting Personal Information From Clients

KYIV -- Ukrainian banks have begun collecting additional information about their clients, including data on their public activities, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Since last month, organizations in Kyiv have been receiving inquiries from banks that transfer salaries to employees about those workers' assets, accounts in other financial institutions, their financial advisers, and whether they are "public figures."

The term "public figure" comprises current and former government officials and members of parliament and the judiciary and their families. The list also includes managers of state enterprises, diplomats, and military officials. Some banks do not explain the term in their inquires and, as a result, people are often confused by what it means.

In a response to an RFE/RL request, the National Bank of Ukraine said it is not collecting information from private banks about their clients. At the same time, it stressed that other banks have to gather such data in order to fight terrorism and economic crimes.

The National Bank of Ukraine said it compiled a questionnaire at the request of the international Financial Action Task Force (FATF). As a result, the FATF removed Ukraine from its monitoring black list earlier this month.

Some opposition politicians, however, fear the Ukrainian government is collecting confidential data about its opponents.

Andriy Pyshny, former acting chief of the state-run Oschadbank (Savings Bank) and now a member of the board of the opposition Front of Changes party, told RFE/RL that "the key question [in the questionnare] is whether you are a 'public figure.' Then, if needed, they can block operations or receive information about money entering and leaving your accounts."

Pyshny added that the national bank is helping to build "a police state in Ukraine." He linked the initiative to the parliamentary elections due in October 2012.

Some Ukrainian politicians suggest that Ukrainians can either sue their banks or simply lie about questions not relevant to their banking transactions.

Read more in Ukrainian here