French banks delay payment of salaries to Russian citizens in France

Elena (the first name has been changed), a Russian citizen who has lived in France for eight years and is an employee of a French company, had to fight with her bank so that her salary, normally paid on the 25th of the month, could finally arrive in her account five days later. Blame it on the sanctions linked to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Blocked account

“I first tried to make a transfer from account to account, without success”, she explains, “a message telling me that one of my two accounts was blocked for unpaid credit”. Fearing an attempt at fraud, she contacts her bank, which explains to her that from now on, each of the operations must be validated manually.

Anastasia (first name changed), working for the public sector in France, shares a similar disappointment: her salary present in her account on Monday morning disappears 24 hours later and then returns, after a certain number of exchanges with her agency.

Same scenario for Katia (first name changed), in France for nine years and whose joint account with her French husband was also blocked for several days, “without any notification from the bank”, she specifies.

In these three cases, they are women who opened accounts at Société Générale by providing Russian identity documents at the time.

“Discrimination on the basis of nationality”

Several similar testimonies have been shared on social networks in recent days, pointing the finger especially at Société Générale, but also at BNP Paribas and Crédit Mutuel/CIC. A Telegram encrypted messaging discussion group has even been formed.

To these was added Wednesday that of the boss of the Russian news channel RT France, who accuses Societe Generale of having blocked the bank accounts of certain Russian employees in France. “The Societe Generale bank has blocked the private accounts (on which are paid) the salaries of several of our Russian employees in France”, accused Xenia Fedorova, on her Telegram channel in Russian. “It’s a real discrimination on the basis of nationality, France is hitting rock bottom again.”

Societe Generale “does not block the accounts of its customers on the sole criterion of nationality”, replied the bank in a press release. She says she is “aware that the application of these measures and additional checks may be binding for [ses] customers” and assures “to carry them out quickly”.

Several hundred Russian citizens, but also Belarusians, have been subject to sanctions from the European Union, the United States or even the United Kingdom since the start of the war in Ukraine. Their assets are frozen. It is up to different professions, such as real estate, banking or law, to ensure that the sanctions are properly applied.

The potential penalties for breach are very severe. BNP Paribas, for example, was ordered to pay a colossal fine of 8.9 billion dollars for having transferred money from 2004 to 2012 through the United States on behalf of Sudanese, Cuban and Iranian clients.

Manual checks

“The verifications induced by the decisions of the European public authorities can lead to delays in the processing of transactions”, indicates a spokesperson for Crédit Mutuel, ensuring “to do our utmost to limit the effects on customers as soon as[il s’est assuré] that they are not affected by these regulatory constraints”.

Since the checks are manual and not automatic, this lengthens the procedure even further.

BNP Paribas specifies for its part that it “continues to support Russian nationals in France, to open an account or in the management of their daily banking needs”, while exercising its “duty of constant supervision and ensuring the compliance with the regulatory obligations imposed on all banking establishments”.

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