By Manuel F. Perez
Banks and other financial institutions are legally obliged to "know your client" which they call "KYC" when they open an account. This can be very frustrating when you don't have the usual identification the bank requires, though most office administrators will often give you a letter for the bank manager and the local corporate identification, and advice as to whom to speak to when opening your account. Each place has its own rules and formalities, and expatriates have heard of many of them (including places where your rubber stamp is used in place of your signature). But international conventions have focused on the use of government issued identification (with a photograph) as one of the key elements of knowing who is opening an account. This is important because governments do want to control the activities of individuals and corporations who have a history of lawbreaking, or who are under investigation.
In light of this, yet another risk expats face is the possibility of selling your property to someone on a watch list or blacklist, especially when we are in the process of getting rid of everything we own before our flight home. Just imagine: selling your car, which everyone in town knows is yours, to a person who ends up being known to police as drug dealer – it would be embarrassing, to say the least. An expat acquaintance of mine had the misfortune of selling a business and later finding out (in the newspapers) he was being investigated for things the business did after he was gone! I imagine he had large legal fees in that country to try to clear his name. I know he found out later that the buyers had a history of "irregular" dealings, but by then he was already in trouble. In this case and others, checking with the local consular office will often let you know if you are dealing with someone who is "exposed" to risky situations, by being on international "watch" lists, or by being on "blacklists". The USA maintains lists of individuals and business that no US citizen or business may do business with (maintained by the State Department) and local consular offices keep abreast of local trends and personalities so they can give good advice to the people that consult with them.
Finally, please also be careful with donations to different charities and community groups: some of them might be linked to criminal or terrorist organizations. It might seem embarrassing to ask a manager or consul what they think about "ABC Charity", but it would be more embarrassing to be caught up in a police investigation. A simple verification with your office administrator, consular office and even your local bank may save you (and your employer) from much embarrassment, to say the least. Of course, most prosecutions in this matter are for really outrageous donations or actions, but most expatriates truly want to avoid problems and so should be careful.
So, returning to the title of this series of articles, just as "your automobile" must be used according to the transit laws of where you are as well as where your license plate is from, "your money" must be used according to the different laws, regulations and mechanisms available at your home, work place, and anywhere else you might be doing business. If all you do is work, pay minimal personal expenses, and use the banking system exclusively, then you have little to worry about (I've only known of one –yes, only one- expat who did this, and in the end he had to straighten out a lot of monetary issues so he could get a proper pension back home). But if you are like most expatriates, you will have a family and friends and might even be a local leader in your community, living life to the fullest and running the risks that all expatriates share.
Next time, I hope to be answering some of your questions.