Countess Alexandra Tolstoy was in a tent in central Asia when the size of her predicament hit. Having her accounts closed by NatWest after seven years of impeccable banking, she feared she’d wrestle to assist her kids or preserve her enterprise.
The Anglo-Russian adventurer, broadcaster and author says: ‘You hear horrific issues about what some folks do to themselves in such conditions.
‘It may be life-changing. You’re feeling totally helpless.’
Final week, Alexandra, 49, a descendant of the Tolstoy dynasty, reckoned that she had found why she had been declared persona non grata by the financial institution.
With out her data, she had been declared a PEP (a politically uncovered particular person) and had her title flagged on the database of World-Verify, which helps companies determine quite a lot of particular third-party dangers by screening folks for money-laundering, sanctions and terrorist financing.
It was, partially, due to an interview she gave to the Day by day Mail 12 years in the past.
Countess Alexandra Tolstoy, 49, reckons she had been declared a PEP (a politically uncovered particular person) partially, due to an interview she gave to the Day by day Mail 12 years in the past
The 2011 article targeted on her love affair with Russian oligarch Sergei Pugachev and their plans to attend the marriage of Prince Albert of Monaco. It spoke about Botox and Bentleys, and the Valentino high fashion frock that Alexandra can be sporting.
It was thought-about sturdy sufficient proof to be included within the World-Verify file which Alexandra says is now having such a big effect on her monetary affairs.
‘How can they use newspaper headlines swept off the web?’ she asks. ‘The place is the due diligence, the forensic inquiry, the cross-referencing, the usage of authorities info, verified and double-checked?
‘Why does World-Verify not take a look at Firms Home or His Majesty’s Income & Customs, for instance, in the event that they need to scrutinise my life?
‘I used to be even listed as dwelling in Monte Carlo. I don’t. I’m not arduous to seek out within the UK. I pay my council tax in Wandsworth [in South-West London] and I’m on the electoral roll.
‘Nobody is aware of if they’re on World-Verify’s listing, but monetary establishments and regulatory companies use it to make basic choices about our lives.
‘In the event you attempt to defend your self, you might be combating shadows. It’s Orwellian, sinister. I really feel like I’ve been convicted of a criminal offense with out anybody telling me what it’s I’m presupposed to have executed.’
Alexandra is relieved to have recognized the obvious motive that NatWest has closed her accounts however she now faces months of detective work to trace down all of the second- and third-tier reference companies which have used World-Verify’s info and flagged her as a danger.
The 2011 article targeted on her love affair with Russian oligarch Sergei Pugachev (pictured) and their plans to attend the marriage of Prince Albert of Monaco
Her plight is probably related to her relationship with Pugachev, the daddy of her two sons and her daughter.
The couple, who by no means married, cut up acrimoniously when the person as soon as generally known as ‘The Kremlin’s banker’ fled the UK in 2015, regardless of a courtroom order banning him from leaving the nation.
In keeping with Alexandra, who was born within the UK and is a British citizen, they don’t seem to be in touch and he has not supported her and their kids since he left.
She says she has no monetary hyperlinks to Russia – one thing which might be checked by NatWest.
In April, Alexandra acquired a letter from NatWest saying it not needed her as a buyer and can be closing her accounts. It arrived like ‘a bolt from the blue’, she says.
Flying between the UK and Kyrgyzstan, the place she had a number of purchasers on the journey horse-riding holidays she runs, she sought extra info. The financial institution informed her: ‘We’re not obliged to enter into any dialogue or present a motive for our determination.
‘We’ve reviewed our rationale behind the choice and, sadly, this stays unchanged. We due to this fact gained’t be assembly with you or discussing this additional.’
In April, Alexandra acquired a letter from NatWest saying it not needed her as a buyer and can be closing her accounts
After being suggested by a good friend to make a Knowledge Entry Request – one thing anybody is entitled to ask of an organisation they believe of holding private details about them – she realized about World-Verify and that she was flagged on its listing.
It was then that she discovered that a part of their proof was the Day by day Mail interview. She believes that is accountable for NatWest’s actions, though she has but to be formally informed by the financial institution.
NatWest has mentioned it treats compliance as ‘a matter of precedence’ however couldn’t touch upon the specifics of the case.
This isn’t the primary time Alexandra has discovered herself in such circumstances – Barclays eliminated her as a buyer after a 25-year relationship on the time of her cut up from Pugachev.
She didn’t problem the choice as a result of she believed it was collateral harm from the tip of their relationship.
She confronted comparable remedy from First Direct and Metro Financial institution however then took her account to NatWest the place she has been a buyer since 2016.
After NatWest’s determination, a fortnight in the past she opened an account with an internet financial institution.
‘The secrecy has been so arduous to deal with,’ she says. ‘In the event you don’t know what info is being held on you, and by whom, you’ll be able to’t know if it’s incorrect.
‘In a courtroom of legislation, you want info,’ she says. ‘Why do they not matter right here?’