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Anti-Russian Financial Sanctions Based on Fear, Not Law

Businessman Rhod Mackenzie writes to RI about the effect of intimidation on western financial institutions, shown when he attempted to make a simple money transfer from the UK to Russia

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This post first appeared on Russia Insider


I had a recent annoying if not to say rather amusing situation with a currency transfer agency based in London. They are called Currencies Direct and profess to be a friendly but professional company that is focused on your individual needs in currency transactions. I contacted them after my previous currency transfer company Travelex International Payments became seriously Russophobic and refused to send any funds to any Russian Bank as they were in fear of sanctions.

The fact that sanctions only affect a few individuals connected to members of the Russian Government and a number of state owned companies and do not affect the operation of the SWIFT, VISA or Mastercard  operations by retail banks. The fact that the sanctions were imposed by the USA and the EU without a UN mandate does not actually make them legal, but of course if you want to do business in the USA you follow the sanctions as the fines and the possibility of not doing so means enormous fines and being shut out of the USA market (two sorts of blackmail).
 
Yes, VTB24 (my bank or its parent) has been affected but only in the fact it cannot raise money in the International Financial Markets for more than 3 months at a time. Now Currencies Direct flagged up a simple transaction of £5000 by their compliance team from my Barclays UK account to them and onto VTB24 this transaction took less than 2 minutes as did the online transaction to place the transfer to VTB 24 via their website. I was then informed that VTB were on the sanctions list.
 
This is where it gets more interesting!

When I opened my account at Currencies Direct in July 2015 they asked for and received a letter from the manager in Ufa of VTB24 to verify me as a customer and my account details. This happened (Yes! I know getting this in English out of a Russian retail bank is not easy, in fact in most cases down right impossible), I got it and sent it as a PDF to them letterhead and all and they were very happy to open the account - in fact so happy they gave me a $60 voucher for Amazon to reward me for my first transaction, and I have subsequently received another $50 in rewards for my loyalty.
 
I then continued to do monthly transfers for my needs until this experience, the last before this one was 16th December 2015.
As we are all aware the new sanctions against Russia have been minimal so what motivates a company to target a British guy living in Ufa transferring his own personal funds to support his family in Russia? 
 
Fear!

The USA is so angry at the ineffectiveness of their sanctions, and their humiliation by Russia and Putin on so many issues that they want instill fear into financial institutions who are not big enough to stand alone.
 
This is a small example of the effect the bullying tactics of the USA on the world.   

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