Santander Bank of Argentina has started closing accounts of customers who purchased new cars with cash during the pandemic. The former Banco Rio entity considers these accounts suspicious despite the fact the AFIP, Argentina's Administration of Public Income, authorized the transactions and the money originated in accounts held at the bank.
The affected bank customers recently began contacting Motor1 Argentina, which broke the story. In each instance, the case involved a Santander Bank customer who purchased a new vehicle between 2020 and 2023 using electronic funds transfer. In those cases, the customer first received an alert on their cellphone through the Santander mobile bank app, followed by a formal letter notifying them of their account closure. The notifications indicate that Santander Bank considers these transactions suspicious despite the fact they were carried out using an official Certificate of Legal Funds approved by the AFIP.
One Santander Bank customer, who bought a new Toyota Hilux in 2020, notified Motor1 Argentina after their account was closed. They had held the account for 20 years and bought the vehicle for five million pesos, the equivalent of $18,570 US dollars, using money from that account validated with a Certificate of Legal Funds. Another customer had their account closed after 25 years because they conducted the transaction online during the pandemic. A third purchased a Jeep Renegade with money from their checking account and had their account closed despite Santander Bank having records of all of their transactions.
For over two decades, the AFIP has required customers and dealers to present official Certificates of Legal Funds to conduct new car transactions. Cash transactions are carried out using electronic funds transfers as a way to ensure the money is traceable for tax purposes and to avoid any appearance of laundering. Customers of Santander Bank were also encouraged to do business online, which in many cases, was the only option during the pandemic.
Motor1 Argentina reached out to Banco Santander for confirmation. After 11 days, a spokesperson for the bank responded, stating, "The information published is false and lacks support. In no way are there general account closure procedures for car buyers. Any account closure process is analyzed individually and in accordance with current applicable regulations."