Dot Wordsworth

The horror of being branded a PEP

Hollie Adams [Getty Images]

When I asked my husband if he knew what PEP meant he said: ‘It’s an emergency combination of HIV drugs that can stop the virus if you’ve been putting your todger where you shouldn’t.’

Trust him to get hold of the wrong end of the stick. To him as a doctor, PEP meant Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. But I was talking about Politically Exposed Persons – a concept abused by banks to deny people accounts, as happened to Nigel Farage.

Dominic Lawson, once editor of The Spectator, wrote in the Daily Mail about his wife being refused a bank account because her brother is a Viscount – but one without a seat in the Lords.

The PEP has seeped into financial regulations, acquiring the status of the Black Spot. The idea was to prevent money laundering by making banks aware of foreign customers and the source of large influxes of money. Since 2017 it has applied to British citizens as well as to retired dictators, thanks to the Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing and Transfer of Funds (Information on the Payer) Regulations. These are a law made by means of a statutory instrument, signed by David Evennett and Andrew Griffiths, two of the Lords Commissioners of HM Treasury. They’d certainly qualify as PEPs.

These regulations say PEPs are individuals ‘entrusted with prominent public functions’. They include, it says, heads of state, members of parliament and the supreme courts, ambassadors and high-ranking officers in the armed forces. It fingers family members and close associates of the PEP.

The phrase has the perverse consequence of making, say, the President of the UK Supreme Court subject to suspicious examination, unlike the car-dealer down the road. Even MPs, who, heaven knows, are very ordinary mortals, have had bank accounts closed, being deemed PEPs. When I was at school a childish joke was to ask: ‘Are you a PLP?’ If you said yes, you would be heavily leant on, as a Public Leaning Post.

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