Explained: Is it legal to claim unclaimed account funds from international banks?

banking law

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September 07, 2022

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In the United Arab Emirates, there are rules which regulate the handling of dormant accounts and unclaimed balances. 

These regulations are called the Central Bank Circular No. 1 of 2020 (Bank Regulations), issued by the Central Bank of the UAE. The Bank Regulations have been issued in accordance with the Federal Decree Law No. 14 of 2018 Regarding the Central Bank & Organization of Financial Institutions and Activities. All banks which are licensed to carry out banking / financial activities in accordance with the applicable UAE banking laws, are required to comply with the provisions of the Bank Regulations.

What are dormant accounts?

Generally, for an account to be dormant, Article 2 of the Bank Regulations states that the customer should not have another active liability account with the same bank, have an unknown current address and not have any litigation or regulatory requirements for the bank account. If there any correspondence from the customer in relation to another account held with the same bank, it would be treated as evidence that the customer is still active and won’t meet the definition of a "dormant customer".

Further, each type of account will have its own conditions based on which the account will be treated as “dormant”. 

For example, for an individual or a corporate saving or a current account, if there have been no transactions for a period of 3 years and no communications have been received from the customer, then the account will be treated as dormant. 

A fixed term deposit account will be treated as dormant if there is no automatic renewable clause and the deposit has matured, but renewal or claim request has not been made in the past 3 years since the deposit matured.

The fixed term deposit account could also be treated as dormant in a situation where there is an automatic renewable clause, but no communication has been received from the customer for 3 years since the date of first maturity.

What actions can a customer take for claiming funds from a dormant account?

It should first be noted that you can only claim the funds in a dormant account if the account is yours. It is because the money in a dormant account remains the property of the account holder, or his/her legal heirs, in case the account holder has passed away. This is clearly set out in Article 7/1 of the Bank Regulations.

Under Article 4 of the Bank Regulations, if a customer has funds in a dormant account, the concerned bank should be approached, either personally or through a legal counsel, and claim submitted to prove the identity of the customer. The bank is required to verify the identity of the customer and should be satisfied with other details provided, and then pay the amount in the dormant account to the customer along with interest, if applicable.

The banks, under Article 4/4 of the Bank Regulations, should monitor the accounts of such customers closely in order to ensure that these accounts are not being used for the purpose of money laundering or fraudulent purposes.

Transfer of Funds to the Central Bank

In case the account is dormant for 5 years from the date of the last transaction or the bankers cheque, bank draft or cashier order is unclaimed for 5 years from the date of issue, the bank is required to transfer the net amount to an unclaimed balance account at the Central Bank under Article 8 of the Bank Regulations. 

Once the funds have been transferred to the Central Bank, these will be retained by the Central Bank from the date of transfer until it is claimed by the beneficiary.

Conclusion

The Central Bank has provided an avenue for customers to claim their funds which may have been lying in a dormant account and accordingly, the customers can approach their banks to initiate the process to claim their money. 


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