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Bank blacklists Swiss travel agent for being named Isis

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Bank blacklists Swiss travel agent for being named Isis
File photo: Caroline Bishop
12:04 CEST+02:00
Being named after an ancient Egyptian goddess doesn't make for a smooth banking experience in today's world, given the case of one travel agent in Lausanne.

The manager of the Royal Voyages travel agency in Lausanne discovered that payments from clients were being held up by the Swiss post office's banking arm, Postfinance, because her first name was the same as the common acronym used for terrorist group Islamic State, Isis.

Isis Bihiry, a Swiss of Egyptian descent, told newspaper 20 Minutes: “For more than a month deposits from clients seemed to arrive later than before.”

She finally asked one of her clients, who called Postfinance to find out why the payment was delayed.

The client then received a letter from Postfinance saying that the payment had been blocked “because people with the name Isis are on the list of sanctions”.

“Being listed in this way means that financial sanctions will apply against the person in question,” read the letter.

Contacted by 20 Minutes, Johannes Möri, spokesman for Postfinance, wouldn't comment on individual cases but said that strict legislation was in place for financial transactions.

Since October 2014 the financing of Islamic State and associated organizations has been banned by Swiss federal law, he said.

Speaking to The Local, Bihiry said: “It was funny as well as worrying.”

“I was totally paranoid. It made me scared,” she said, adding that she was “shocked” that someone could end up on a list of dangerous people simply because their first name was a keyword.

“It's a shame that we let ourselves be manipulated by machines and technology,” she said.

The money destined for Bihiry has now been allowed through.

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