We Brits often bandy around the term ‘corruption’ when discussing other countries, as if we, through a sense of empirical hangover, have a right to take the moral high ground.

I have friends from Nigeria and Romania, and they are acutely aware of the stereotypes that their nationalities have thrust upon them, be it financial fraud for the African contingent or rampant theft and violence from the Romanian brotherhood.

And yet, as many still see the UK as a society in which they wish to settle, those who are now fully ingrained in British society, such as my Romanian friend John who has been in Blighty in excess of a quarter of a century, find themselves scuppered in their attempts to ‘get on’, at every turn.

John arrived in the back of a truck and spoke no English. From there he has built up several successful car-based businesses and employs numerous staff. He pays full UK taxes and takes pride in this as he, in his own words, attempts to "shake off the stereotype" of Romanians being ‘n’er do wells’.

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: Brett Ellis has a friend whose had their bank account closed for no apparent reasonBrett Ellis has a friend whose had their bank account closed for no apparent reason (Image: Brett Ellis)

And yet, he is then scuppered by the UK system. Around a year ago, he phoned me, in an unJohnlike panic, as his business bank account had been shut down without warning.

Numerous banks, including Santander, have been fined huge sums recently (£108m in Santander’s case) for "significant gaps in its money laundering controls" by the FCA (financial conduct authority). The banks, now on red alert to save future fines, have directed staff to close accounts for the most spurious of reasons, or even no reason at all.

Once a bank has shut your account and you have fought to have your funds returned to you, they then, with no reason given, issue a CIFAS marker against you. This marker is then shared with every financial institution. Again, the banks do not inform you of the CIFAS marker which has then been used, in John’s cas, to shut down a further three business bank accounts, all of which are refusing to give him a reason.

John is not alone. There is a Facebook group called ‘NatWest closed down my account’ which totals over 9,000 members in its ranks, all with remarkably similar stories. Simon Daws writes "In January NatWest gave me 60 days’ notice they were closing down my accounts for no reason, after 46 years".

This is an issue we should all be concerned with as there is a chance that you could fall foul next as you wonder where it all went wrong, as it has for John and thousands of others, suffering a financial freeze frostier than the coldest of winters.

  • Brett Ellis is a school teacher.