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Novara media published an article titled "Germany Is Seizing Jews’ Money Again It’s fine, they’re pro-Palestine" by James Jackson

The bank [Berliner Sparkasse] demanded a list of the names of all of the members of Jüdische Stimme and their addresses, signed by members of the board [of Jüdische Stimme] by April 5 before adding that they were freezing the account immediately “as a precautionary measure.”

Novara media claims that "Multiple legal experts who spoke to Novara Media believe that the request for [Jüdische Stimme's] members’ data is unlawful in at least two ways: a breach of their contract with the bank, to which they had not consented to give this information, and EU privacy law, specifically general data protection regulation (GDPR)."

  • Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost is the German name of "Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in the Middle East".
  • Berliner Sparkasse is a public savings bank whose parent organisation, Landesbank Berlin AG, belongs entirely to the state of Berlin according to Novara.

Is Novara media right or does Berliner Sparkasse have the right to do so?

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    I am skeptical of a one sided claim that this is unlawful. Disclosure of members of entities that have banking relationships is frequently required by banking "know your customer" (KYC) and sanctions compliance laws. This information is very standard to provide. If disclosed, the information would still be private and not subject to disclosure except as expressly authorized by German banking privacy laws. But those banking privacy laws usually permit disclosures to law enforcement for sanctions enforcement purposes. I don't have time today, however, to confirm that analysis for an answer.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 29 at 21:03

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Novara media claims that "Multiple legal experts who spoke to Novara Media believe that the request for [Jüdische Stimme's] members’ data is unlawful in at least two ways: a breach of their contract with the bank, to which they had not consented to give this information, and EU privacy law, specifically general data protection regulation (GDPR)."

The 'Multiple legal experts' obviously didn't take the Chapter 3 Customer due diligence obligations of the Money Laundering Act (GwG) into account.

Is Novara media right or does Berliner Sparkasse have the right to do so?

Since §10 (1)(5) GwG requires continuous monitoring of the business relationship, the bank is required by law, not only durning the opening an account but also during the lifetime of the contract (which both parties have sign and thus agreed to), to insure that the activities of the account conform to the conditions set out in the Money Laundering Act (GwG).

This is nothing new for the Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost organisation, since in 2016 their bank account with the BFS bank was closed due to their support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

As opposed to Novara media, other media reports of the same date have reported the Money Laundering Act (GwG) as the reason for the banks action. This leads to the question why, other than quoting the Berliner Sparkasse 'regulatory provisions' statement, they didn't go into more detail (as the Berliner Zeitung did) as to what these provisions entails.


Sources (German only):

  • Gesetz über das Aufspüren von Gewinnen aus schweren Straftaten (Geldwäschegesetz - GwG) - Abschnitt 3 - Sorgfaltspflichten in Bezug auf Kunden
  • 2023-03-28: Bankkonto „gesperrt“: Verein Jüdische Stimme wirft Berliner Sparkasse Verfolgung vor - Berliner Zeitung

    Seitdem das Geldwäschegesetz im Jahr 2021 verschärft wurde, unterliegen Kontoinhaber strikteren Kontrollen. Das führte zu vermehrten Kontosperrungen. Im Jahr 2020 erhielt die Zentralstelle für Finanztransaktionsuntersuchungen (FIU) noch 144.005 Meldungen von verdächtigen Konten. Ein Jahr später waren es schon 298.507. Im Jahr 2022 musste die FIU 337.186 Berichte unter die Lupe nehmen.

    Since the Money Laundering Act was tightened in 2021, account holders have been subject to stricter controls. This has led to an increase in account blockings. In 2020, the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) received 144,005 reports of suspicious accounts. One year later, the number had risen to 298,507. In 2022, the FIU had to examine 337,186 reports.

  • 2016-12-12: Bank für Sozialwirtschaft: Presseinformationen: Statement der Bank für Sozialwirtschaft (BFS) zur Kontokündigung „Jüdische Stimme“ wegen Unterstützung der Kampagne „Boykott, Desinvestitionen und Sanktionen (BDS)“

    Maßgeblich für die Kündigung ist vielmehr, dass die Jüdische Stimme die Kampagne „Boykott, Desinvestitionen und Sanktionen (BDS)“ unterstützt. Diese hat eine Destabilisierung des Staates Israel zum Ziel, die mit den Grundsätzen der BFS unvereinbar ist.

    The decisive factor for the termination is that the Jewish Voice supports the campaign "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)". The aim of this campaign is to destabilize the State of Israel, which is incompatible with the principles of the BFS.

  • 2022-12-18: BaFin - Girokonto - Was ist bei einer Kontoeröffnung zu beachten?
    • BaFin: Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht
      • Federal Financial Supervisory Authority

    Im Rahmen der Kontoeröffnung muss das Kreditinstitut auch bestimmte Sorgfaltspflichten nach dem Geldwäschegesetz erfüllen. Hierzu gehört neben der bereits aus den oben genannten Gründen erforderlichen Identifizierung des Kunden insbesondere auch die Abklärung, ob der Kunde für einen wirtschaftlich Berechtigten im Sinne des Geldwäschegesetzes handelt und welchem Zweck das Konto dienen soll (zum Beispiel Gehaltskonto, Privat- oder Geschäftskonto). Zusätzlich muss das Kreditinstitut prüfen, ob es sich bei dem Kunden um eine politisch exponierte Person im Sinne des Geldwäschegesetzes handelt.

    When opening an account, the credit institution must also fulfil certain due diligence obligations under the Money Laundering Act. In addition to the identification of the customer, which is already required for the reasons mentioned above, this also includes clarifying whether the customer is acting on behalf of a beneficial owner within the meaning of the Money Laundering Act and what purpose the account is intended to serve (e.g. salary account, private or business account). In addition, the credit institution must check whether the customer is a politically exposed person within the meaning of the Money Laundering Act.

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  • regarding the difference in reporting, Novara has a left-wing bias and sparkasse didn't give them a comment unlike their German counterparts
    – Ona
    Mar 30 at 8:52
  • I don't understand the relationship between BDS and money laundering.
    – Ona
    Mar 30 at 8:55
  • @Ona Your quoted artical doesn't state that they asked for one, but otherwise it does quote what the bank wrote: received a letter from its bank, Berliner Sparkasse (Berlin Savings Bank), stating that “according to regulatory provisions, we … are obliged to check the data stored about our customers at regular intervals and to update if necessary”. Mar 30 at 9:16
  • @Ona In contract law it takes two to tango, for compelling reasons one side can terminate a contract (§314 Termination, for a compelling reason - German Civil Code BGB). This happened in 2016 with the other bank (BDS) and if they don't supply the list to this bank (Sparkasse) it will happen again as well. Mar 30 at 9:17
  • it does ask for one, it's at the very bottom of the article.
    – Ona
    Mar 30 at 9:30

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