Britain's banks have been accused of hounding MPs' children, parents, grandparents and even in-laws in a crackdown aimed at curbing fraud by corrupt African dictators.

They have threatened to shut the bank accounts of MPs and their relatives - on suspicion of being linked to terrorism and international money laundering.

And up to 150,000 people - those with any family link to all national and local politicians, civil servants, Army officers, City workers, financiers and diplomats - could have their money seized.

That is the remarkable claim made by senior Conservative MP Charles Walker.


He led a Commons debate last Thursday to demand action to stop 'heavy-handed' British banks using new international anti-money laundering rules to threaten people who happen to be related to someone in public life.

It has resulted in MPs and their families being treated as potentially crooked despots and terrorist fundraisers.

Mr Walker said last night: 'It is ridiculously heavy-handed for banks to treat British MPs and their families in this aggressive way. They should be targeting crooked despots and dictators, not MPs' grannies.'

The debate heard that MPs' relatives had been summoned by their local bank manager and quizzed about money-laundering.

Bizarre cases involving several MPs whose families have been caught up in the new banking rules to monitor so-called 'politically exposed persons' (PEP) include:
lMr Walker's 18-year-old daughter Charlotte was told her bank account could be closed unless she revealed how much money he had given her and all her previous addresses;
lConservative MP Craig Mackinlay's 81-year-old father's local bank officials asked him 'probing' questions - even though he had banked there for 50 years; lTory MP Pauline Latham's son was told to give details about his wife and in-laws. Ms Latham said it 'beggared belief' she had been interrogated by her bank despite banking there since the 1970s.

Derbyshire Conservative MP Heather Wheeler said: 'A bank I had banked with for over 30 years phoned me and told me I was high risk and they would not deal with me any more. A second bank closed my account with no explanation.'

MPs said High Street banks HSBC, Lloyds, Halifax, Barclays, NatWest and Coutts - known as 'the Queen's bank' - are all carrying out the checks.

Treasury Minister Harriett Baldwin said the checks were needed to combat international fraud 'on an astonishing scale', such as the cases involving former Nigerian politician James Ibori and ex-Zambian president Frederick Chiluba, both of whom were accused of stealing millions.

But she acknowledged a 'heavy-handed' approach by some banks had caused 'enormous frustration' for MPs and their families.

The BBA (British Bankers Association) said in a statement: 'Tackling money laundering and terrorist financing is a major priority. Banks treat PEP checks on a case-by-case basis and are trying to minimise inconvenience for customers.'

- Daily Mail