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HSBC Says It Will Stop Serving Some Syrian, Iranian Citizens

Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- HSBC Holdings Plc’s Dubai-based Middle East unit will stop personal-banking services to some customers with links to countries subject to European Union and U.S. sanctions, such as Syria and Iran.

HSBC Bank Middle East Ltd. will only serve citizens of the affected nations that qualify for Advance and Premier accounts, which require a minimum balance of 100,000 U.A.E. dirhams ($27,225) and 350,000 dirhams respectively, if they “completely satisfy” due-diligence requirements, according to a statement e-mailed by a Dubai-based spokeswoman for the bank.

Customers started receiving letters at the beginning of February, and have been given 30 days’ notice of the changed policies. London-based HSBC, Europe’s largest bank by market value, agreed in December to pay $1.92 billion to settle U.S. probes of money laundering after Senate testimony indicated it handled so-called U-turn transactions through U.S. financial institutions that involved funds from Iran to non-U.S. banks.

HSBC’s reputation was “crushed” after it agreed to settle the U.S. probes, Chief Executive Officer Stuart Gulliver told U.K. lawmakers on Feb. 6.

HSBC Middle East says it operates in 14 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. It doesn’t operate in Iran, which is under sanctions as the U.S. and EU try to dissuade the nation from pursuing a nuclear program, or Syria, where there is a violent uprising against the ruling regime.

EU states will consider stiffening sanctions on Syria to clamp down on the “illegitimate” regime of President Bashar al-Assad, according to a draft statement for a two-day summit of the group starting today.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stefania Bianchi in Dubai at sbianchi10@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dale Crofts at dcrofts@bloomberg.net

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