BBVA accused of racism after freezing bank accounts of hundreds of Chinese clients in Spain

Hundreds of Chinese citizens staged a rare protest Friday at an office of Spain's BBVA bank in Madrid, angrily denouncing that their personal accounts had been frozen without prior warning.

BBVA accused of racism after freezing bank accounts of hundreds of Chinese clients in Spain
Photo: AFP

Waving Chinese and Spanish flags, the protesters shouted “racist BBVA” and “we want justice,” carrying banners reading “stop banking racism.”   

Contacted by AFP, BBVA, the second biggest bank in Spain, was not able to detail how many clients had been affected.   

In a statement, it said it had frozen accounts to comply with measures to fight money-laundering, adding it was working to resolve the problem.   

Protesters said other banks had also frozen accounts of citizens of Chinese origin recently, but to a lesser extent than BBVA.   

All banks are asking the customers documents detailing their tax situation and income before they re-open the accounts.   

“BBVA bank is blocking all the accounts of Chinese citizens, and even Spanish citizens of Chinese origin,” Ding Li, a Marid-based lawyer, told AFP.   

He said the bank had not given customers prior warning and is “taking a really long time to respond” to affected customers.   

“They closed my account a first time in August, and again two months later,” said Ting Ting, the manager of a restaurant in Madrid.   

She said BBVA blocked her own account, that of her nine-year-old daughter and of her business.

Unable to pay her suppliers, she had to open an account in another bank.

READ ALSO:  Pooh banned from Madrid for fear of offending Chinese President 

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Spain’s BBVA bank poised to axe 3,800 jobs and close 530 branches

Spain's second-largest bank BBVA is looking to shed 3,800 jobs, affecting 16 percent of its staff, a union said Thursday while denouncing the plans as "scandalous".

Spain's BBVA bank poised to axe 3,800 jobs and close 530 branches
Photo: Dani Pozo/AFP

The move came just two days after another hefty cut in banking jobs was announced by rival CaixaBank, which said it was planning to axe 8,300 staff.

“BBVA wants to lay off 3,800 people. These redundancies would affect 16 percent of the workforce, 3,000 in the branch network and another 800 in the bank’s central services,” the CCOO Workers’ Union said in a statement.

It said the bank was planning to shut down 530 of its branches, denouncing the dismissal plan as “indefensible and scandalous” and warning it would stage a protest.

It was the latest bank to announce layoff plans as the sector struggles to cope with record-low interest rates and an economic downturn sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, along with a surge in popularity of online banking services.

In mid-November, BBVA announced it was locked in talks about a possible merger with smaller rival Banco Sabadell in a tie-up that would have created a top player within Spain’s banking sector.

But just weeks later the plans were scrapped.

There has been a wave of consolidation within the sector which has been encouraged by Spain’s central bank, with Caixabank completing a massive merger with its smaller rival Bankia last month.

On Tuesday, Caixabank confirmed it would shed nearly one in five jobs, affecting 8,291 staff, in cutbacks which were necessary as a result of the “overlaps and synergies derived from the merger and the current market circumstances,” it said.