Gadhafi/Qaddafi eludes bank screening software

Gadhafi/Qaddafi eludes bank screening software

Banks looking to freeze accounts belonging to Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi are being confounded because their software's 'fuzzy logic' - which helps identify typos and inaccurate translations - cannot cope with the huge variety of ways his name can be spelled.

Banks around the world have been asked by governments to freeze the assets of Gadhafi, as well as other members of his regime as the country slides into civil war.

However, according to the Wall Street Journal, the already difficult job of identifying accounts belonging to people on sanctions lists is being exacerbated by the array of alternative spellings that Arabic names can have.

The US Treasury Department provides 12 possible spellings for Moammar Gadhafi but language experts told the WSJ that there are actually more than 100 for the family name alone.

The fuzzy logic banks' systems use to help catch alternative spellings and typos comes up short when dealing with transliteration errors because Arabic names can be spelled in so many ways.

This has left institutions resorting to painstakingly manually sifting through client files.

Arabic Names Spell Trouble for Banks - WSJ

Comments: (4)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 22 April, 2011, 18:49Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

As is often the case, it requires a high-profile case to highlight fundamental issues and raise the specter over the possibility of similar, albeit lower-profile, everyday occurrences all along.

Like I'd pointed out in an article titled "Taking Multilingual Support to the Next Level" published in TEC two years ago, we don't know how many Müllers have been transliterated to Muller by simplistically dropping the German umlaut character - instead of to Mueller by correctly adding an "e" in the place of the umlauted "u" - with the resultant possibilities of either (a) passing of a transaction that is meant to be blocked; or (b) blocking of a genuine transaction.

Keith Appleyard
Keith Appleyard - available for hire - Bromley 26 April, 2011, 10:41Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

It's nothing new, we had the same problem after 9/11 : is it Usama/Osama bin Laden/Ladin.

So with Gadafi also being spelt Kadafi or Qadafi, just like Brown/Browne or Rob/Robert/Bob/Robbie/Bobby, its the mark of good software to automatically cater for all these variations.

When I worked in Japan we used to help customers choose how to 'romanise' their names to appear embossed on their Credit Cards - so members of the same family could appear differently as SATO, SAITO, SAITOH, SATOH. 

Matthew Day
Matthew Day - International Financial Systems - London 17 May, 2011, 12:49Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

I would have expected most modern systems to have captured that.  Our phonetic matching software would have trapped that condition.


Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 17 May, 2011, 14:22Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

The problem is rarely with modern software. It's often with existing payment landscapes at large and midsized banks, most of which have legacy applications that can't discriminate between such name variants. Quite often, the payment shop is only as strong as its weakest link.