Bank association issues ultimatum on updating data

The nation’s banking association is warning that accounts may be closed if customers do not show up, fill out a form and provide income information to their local institution.

This is the word from the Asociación Bancaria Costarricense, which said Monday that it instituted a campaign to update bank accounts last September. The campaign appears to have been very low-keyed since none of the institutions involved have any mention of it on their Web sites and few persons have heard of it.

The announcement said that Sunday would be the last day for bank account holders to do so. Since banks are not open Sundays, Friday appears to be the final day. A news story,published in the financial section of  La Nación Sept. 13, said that the deadline was Dec. 31. An Internet search also showed anews story in El Financiero and CRHoy about the same dates.

In a news release Monday the banking association said that response to the request to update the information on the accounts had been lukewarm. The release gave no numbers but did quote Gilberto Serrano Gutiérrez, association president, as saying the update would only take about 15 minutes at the local bank. He also is the long-time general manager of Banco Lafise.

In the CRHoy article he was quoted saying that only those who have changed their address, telephone number or other personal data need make an update.

By contrast, the news release Monday said that all bank account holders must do so.

The requirement stems from a regulation issued by the Consejo Nacional de Supervisión del Sistema Financiero directed to all the institutions subject to oversight by the Superintendencia General de Entidades Financieras. Neither of these institutions make any mention of the requirement on their Web sites.

In addition to filling out a know your customer form, the banks will require account holders to provide financial information, said the association release. For an individual, this may be salary information or other evidence showing where funds originate. Corporations appear to be required to show documents certified by an accountant.

The association says that bankers are ethically bound to keep this information secret.  In the case of U.S. citizens, a recent agreement between Costa Rica and the United States means the information will be available to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and the Ministerio de Hacienda’s tax agency.

The purpose of the banking rule is to spot possible  laundering, terrorists, tax cheats or shady deals.

A.M. Costa Rica reported in 2009 on bank efforts to know their customers. That is when many expats were haled into their local bank office to provide information on their incomes. There were a lot of problems when bank workers seemed to exceed the requirements, demanded additional information and closed some accounts.

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