I’ve been using PayPal since at least 2006 for shopping on eBay. This online buying and auction bidding turned into a serious addiction. By 2010 I was mostly over it and only started using my account again in 2019. But, that which started as a humble online shopping infatuation, soon turned into a political, money-laundering drama of international proportions. On 18 May 2019 I received a nice email from PayPal:
Subject: Your account has been limited until you provide some additional information.
Dear Louis Nel,
We need your help resolving an issue with your account. To give us time to work together on this, we’ve temporarily limited what you can do with your account until the issue is resolved.
What’s the problem?
We’re required to learn more about you and confirm your identity. Please provide some more information about yourself.
Case ID Number: PP-008-066-648-031
That’s strange. The reply email is not monitored so I log into PayPal to supply the missing information. As it turns out, I was flagged for being a PEP. Being called a PEP is one thing but not knowing what on earth that even means, is even scarier. So I google PEP and it says “Politically Exposed Person”. Oh, that type of PEP. As it so happens, I was one of the nominees for the Capitalist Party of South Africa or the ZACP’s 2019 bid to obtain representation in the National Assembly.
Unfortunately, we did not make the cut failing to get a single seat in the National Legislature. According to PayPal, a PEP holds a position in political office or has close ties to politicians. This form of scrutiny is based on the global guidelines instituted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to combat money laundering globally.
On 28 May 2019 I received another polite reply from PayPal:
Dear Louis Nel,
Thank you for responding to our requests to further verify your customer information. In order for us to meet our regulatory requirements, we would appreciate if you would complete any outstanding steps mentioned so that we can review your account further.
PayPal is required to comply with the European Union anti-money laundering and ‘Know-Your-Customer’ regulations. This regulation requires us to verify your identity and address given to us. This sounds complicated, but it is not!
Ah ha, KYC is also a favourite buzzword of the global money-laundering police. I supply proof of address and a copy of my identity document.
They also include the following questions:
Do you hold a position in the Capitalist Party of South Africa office?
Are you associated with or related to someone in the public trust or political office?
– If you answer YES to either of the above-listed questions, please provide:
1. Details as to who the individual is; and
2. This person’s political or public trust position; and
3. How you are related or affiliated with this person.
I supply the proof of address and answer the questions. No, I do not hold a position in the office of the Capitalist Party of South Africa as we did not formalise our organisation.
No, I am not associated or related anyone in the public trust or political office.
I send the replies and forget about PayPal for a while. Another email arrives on 9 June 2019:
Dear Louis Nel
The document we received from you could not be accepted as proof of identity.
The proof of address you have supplied cannot be accepted, as the document must clearly show that it was issued within the last 12 months. Please provide us with recent proof of address.
I sent the documents again and forgot about PayPal for a few months until they seem to miss me and send this email on 24 October 2019:
Dear Louis Nel,
Please answer the following questions (which can also be answered from the Resolution Centre by logging in to your PayPal account):
1. Do you hold a position of public trust or political office?
2. Are you associated with or related to someone in the public trust or political office?
By now, I’m livid. All I want to do is just withdraw the paltry amount of US Dollars in my PayPal account to pay for stuff. I’m not laundering cocaine money from Colombia, promise.
I fire this email back:
This is very frustrating. I’ve tried to resolve these issues previously but to no avail.
- Do you hold a position of public trust or political office? No.
- Are you associated with or related to someone in the public trust or political office? No.
- Are you related to the Capitalist Party of South Africa? If yes, what is your position in the Party?
Yes, I am. I stood as an MP (Member of Parliament) candidate in the past 2019 National Elections. We only obtained 15k votes so none of us has obtained a seat in the legislature. We hold normal day jobs and are not involved in any provincial politics.
Having realised that they do not monitor the reply email address and that they will probably never read the email I resolve to end the year by not talking to anyone from PayPal.
Earlier this week, I decided to check up on the status of my account. They still had not accepted my personal documents so I supply a copy of my passport (maybe they don’t like the South African Identity Document) and a recent proof of address.
Lo and behold, not long after the submission I receive this email:
Dear Louis Nel,
As a condition for operating your business on PayPal, we require that you provide the following information:
May we know if you are the owner of https://twitter.com/louisnel?
Do you work for the Capitalist Party of South Africa? Such as technical staff or web developer for https://capitalist.org.za/?
I reply :
Yes, it is my Twitter account. Why do you require this information?
I currently host the website and volunteer my technical skills and labour and am not compensated for this in any way.
Now I am simply confused. What did I do to PayPal to deserve this? Why are they ghosting me? Is it because of my political affiliations? Do they think I earn some unsolicited stream of income? Who ratted me out to the PEP database? Hopefully, these questions will be answered in due course. I’d also like to consult our former president Zuma and his associates on how they managed to flout such thorough exchange controls. But for now, I’m back to ignoring PayPal in this turbulent teenage romance.
Here are the original emails: