igel Farage has not denied a report that he isn’t wealthy enough to hold an account at private bank Coutts.
The Brexit leader fell below the financial threshold needed to hold a Coutts account, and was offered a standard account at NatWest instead, the BBC reported on Tuesday.
The report comes after the former leader of the UK Independence Party (Ukip) claimed his account was refused due to political reasons.
In response to the report that he did not meet Coutts’ financial threshold, Mr Farage said: “They’ve never mentioned that before, in the previous ten years.
“Coutts are frankly, being very, very dishonest indeed.”
Coutts requires its customers to borrow or invest at least £1 million or save at least £3 million with the private bank, according to an eligibility questionnaire on its website.
But Mr Farage, who is now a presenter on the GB News channel, said “at no point in the last 10 years” did the bank give him a minimum threshold, and that he now has “more money sitting on a current account” than before.
He confirmed he was offered a standard account with NatWest, which owns Coutts, but only after speaking publicly about the issue last Thursday.
Mr Farage said in a video posted on Twitter: “They are telling the press I don’t meet their wealth threshold.
“Well, they never mentioned that before in the previous 10 years. The worst of the story is, they denied to me on the phone on Friday I was a PEP (Politically Exposed Person).”
He said that nine other banks have refused him on the basis of being treated as a PEP.
This refers to someone who holds high public office in the UK or overseas, or their family members, meaning financial institutions can treat their accounts with extra due diligence.
PEPs could pose more of a risk of abusing their public office position for personal gain, such as by making or accepting bribes, according to guidance by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
The Government is looking into whether banks are closing people’s accounts over their political views, sparking disputes over whether freedom of speech is being “denied” by financial services firms.
The Treasury said it was already looking into whether banks and regulators were being too rigorous in how they handle PEPs, and making sure that UK-based politicians were being treated as less risky individuals than those in other countries.
A Treasury spokesman said: “It would be a serious concern if financial services were being denied to those exercising the right to lawful free speech.
“We are already looking into this issue and have passed a law that requires the FCA to review how banks treat politically exposed persons – so we can strike the right balance between the customer’s right to free speech and the bank’s right to manage commercial risk.”
It has asked the FCA to conduct a review into whether financial institutions are meeting its guidance over the treatment of PEPs, and whether that guidance needs to be updated.
The official spokesman for the Prime Minister said he was “concerned” by some of the reports, adding: “Free speech within the law and the legitimate expression of differing views is an important part of British liberty.”
He stressed that the Treasury is running a call for evidence to assess whether the current system is fair.
Coutts declined to comment.