Fine of 108 million pounds in Santander in the United Kingdom for deficient controls

The British branch of the Spanish banking giant Santander has been fined 125 million euros in the United Kingdom for “serious and persistent deficiencies in its controls against money laundering” (MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP / Files)

The British branch of Spanish banking giant Santander has been fined 107.8 million pounds (125 million euros) in the United Kingdom for “serious and persistent deficiencies in its anti-money laundering controls,” the financial regulator announced on Friday. (FCA).

“Santander’s mismanagement of its anti-money laundering systems and inadequate attempts to resolve the issues have created a prolonged and serious risk of money laundering and financial crime,” FCA official Mark Steward said in a statement. .

The alleged events occurred between December 31, 2012 and October 18, 2017, during which the bank did not correctly verify the information provided by its professional clients about their activities or control the sufficiency of the amounts deposited, according to the regulator.

In one case, for example, a small translation company opened an account, with estimated monthly deposits of £5,000. But in less than six months he began to receive millions that were quickly transferred to other accounts.

Although the account was recommended for closure by the bank’s money laundering control teams in March 2014, it remained open for more than two years before it was finally closed, the FCA denounces.

The case is not isolated and the financial authority says it has identified several other accounts thus exposed to “a serious risk of money laundering”, having allowed the transit of almost 300 million pounds in total before its closure.

“Santander takes its responsibilities regarding financial crimes very seriously,” the bank’s general director in the United Kingdom, Mike Regnier, reacted in a press release, saying “sorry for these past control problems linked to the fight against silver laundering”. .

“Since then, we have made significant changes to address these issues by reforming our technology, systems and processes to combat financial crime,” it added, noting that more than 4,400 of its employees are now dedicated to financial crime prevention.

“Breaches like this are a nightmare for banks, not just because of the fine, but also because of the damage to their reputations,” said Sophie Lund-Yates, an analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, who believes clients like the regulator are probably not they will tolerate another similar case in the future.

Santander did not dispute the FCA’s findings, which consequently applied a 30% reduction to the nearly £154m fine it would otherwise have imposed on the bank.

The Spanish company is not the first bank heavily sanctioned in the United Kingdom for not controlling money laundering.

Britain’s NatWest was ordered by a British court about a year ago to pay nearly £265m in a money laundering case notably involving hundreds of millions of pounds of cash deposited by one of its clients.

A few days later, his compatriot HSBC had received a fine from the regulator of 63.9 million pounds, also for “deficient controls of transactions” in the framework of the fight against money laundering.

Dennis Alvarado

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