The British financial regulator announced on Monday that it has initiated criminal proceedings against National Westminster Bank Plc (NatWest) for the bank’s alleged involvement in money laundering offenses.
According to the Financial Conduct Authority’s allegations, the bank failed to conduct the mandatory risk due dillegiance for several transactions made between 11 November 2011 and 19 October 2016.
In addition, the regulator detailed that the lapses were made in handling the large cash-based deposits into an account owned by a UK incorporated customer. Out of around £365 million deposited in that particular account, £264 million was in cash.
“It is alleged that NatWest’s systems and controls failed to adequately monitor and scrutinize this activity,” the official announcement by the market watchdog noted.
Regulator Tightening against Money Laundering?
This is the first criminal prosecution under the 2007 UK money laundering law and also the first proceeding against a lender.
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“These regulations require the firm to determine, conduct and demonstrate risk-sensitive due diligence and ongoing monitoring of its relationships with its customers for the purposes of preventing money laundering,” the regulator added.
Established in 1968, NatWest is a major retail and commercial lender in the United Kingdom with reported assets of almost £800 billion. In an official statement, the bank revealed that it was notified of the FCA’s investigation in 2017 and has since been cooperating with the financial regulator.
“NatWest Group takes extremely seriously its responsibility to seek to prevent money laundering by third parties and accordingly has made significant, multi-year investments in its financial crime systems and controls,” the bank said in a statement.
Despite serious charges, no individual of the bank was charged, and the bank is now scheduled to appear at the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 14 April 2021.