NatWest Bank fined for washing trash bags full of cash

On Monday, UK financial regulator prosecutors said a gang deposited hundreds of millions of pounds in cash at around 50 NatWest branches, with at least one store receiving more than £40 million.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) told the judge in a court in London.

A man in Walsall, central England, arrived at a branch with so much cash – £700,000 ($926,000) – that it broke the crate liners it was being carried in. said the extra money didn’t fit in the branch’s floor-to-ceiling safe.

In October, the state-backed bank pleaded guilty to three criminal charges of failing to adequately monitor customer accounts between 2012 and 2016.

Announcing the fine on Monday, the judge said it would be close to £400 million, but a deduction was made for the bank’s plea.

NatWest is Britain’s largest business bank and is largely taxpayer-owned following a £45 billion state bailout during the financial crisis.

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NatWest said the bank had already provisioned for most of the fines, and its shares fell just 0.7 percent, well below the FTSE 100 overall, which was 0.8 percent lower on Monday.

But the lawsuit going to court is a setback for NatWest CEO Alison Rose’s efforts to clean up its image, including a rebranding after it nearly collapsed and a series of lawsuits. scandal under its former group name. Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

“We deeply regret that we failed to adequately monitor one of our clients between 2012 and 2016 for the purpose of preventing money laundering,” Rose said in a statement released after the sentencing. .

She added that the bank will continue to invest in fighting financial crime.

Regulators in the UK and Europe have sought to crack down on money laundering after a string of scandals in recent years, but until the NatWest case the only cases in the UK were civil rather than civil. must be a crime.

The FCA said NatWest had failed to monitor suspected activity of one customer – Fowler Oldfield, a gold dealer and jeweler based in Bradford, northern England, was liquidated following a raid. by the police in 2016 – made a deposit of around £365m, including £264m in cash.

At its peak, up to £1.8 million was deposited in cash daily, making it NatWest’s largest customer in the region, Montgomery said.

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NatWest failed to properly investigate many of the alerts generated by its financial crime system, miscalculating customers as a lower-than-normal risk, and the staff investigating the alerts were inexperienced and knowledge, FCA attorneys said.

A rule designed to flag suspicious activity was disabled by NatWest because it generated too many alerts, “so the bank decided to deactivate it,” Montgomery said.

Another warning was triggered when Fowler Oldfield paid £387,000 into an account of a supplier of cosmetics and hair extensions, before the money was routed to a pub and to a money transfer company. the judge said.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) has at one stage raised concerns about the amount of Scottish banknotes deposited miles away in the UK, which it considers a sign of potential crime, the FCA said. know.

The NCA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

One of the bank’s cash centers in Washington, northeastern England, has expressed concern about the volume of Scottish banknotes being deposited and said they smell musty, likely due to longer storage than used for routine business purposes.

A worker at the NatWest cash center in Basingstoke, southern England, who is nearing retirement, said the activity was the most suspicious he had ever seen in his career, the FCA said.

“How could they have missed all of this? That would be a perfectly reasonable question. The answer is how, they didn’t miss it,” said John Kelsey-Fry, attorney. of NatWest, told the court.

“The protections in the bank actually work to the extent that the activity involved has been identified, it’s highlighted. It doesn’t exit the bank’s system, it’s not in the spotlight. Quality The quality and adequacy of that surveillance is another matter.”

In addition to the fine, the judge also ordered NatWest to pay the FCA £4m in costs and to issue a forfeiture order of £460,000 that NatWest collected from Fowler Oldfield.

In a statement, the FCA said a separate investigation by West Yorkshire Police had resulted in 11 people pleading guilty in connection with the deposits and three charged wire transferors. A further 13 are awaiting trial at Leeds Crown Court, northern England, in April 2022.


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