NatWest Group Plc has recently been charged with violating anti-money laundering laws and regulations. According to Britain’s FinancialConduct Authority (FCA), up to £365 ($505 million) were deposited into an individual customer’s accounts over a five-year period. The latest charges against the bank, which the British government has owned 62% of since the financial crisis, are the latest in a series of legal and conduct issues.
The FCA released a statement recently outlining that the case involves “increasingly large” deposits that were made between Nov. 2011and Oct. 2016 into the accounts of a U.K.-based customer. The U.K. financial watchdog alleges that NatWest violated compliance requirements that mandate financial service firms to monitor their relationships with customers to prevent money laundering.
The bank - which has been trying to clean up its image underCEO Alison Rose who took over in 2019 and rebranded from the scandal riddenRoyal Bank of Scotland name last year - has stated that they have been aware of the investigation since mid-2017 and are fully cooperating with financial regulators.
“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 in a statement it issued.
In a previous annual report in 2020, National Westminster had disclosed an FCA investigation regarding “certain money services businesses and related parties”.
Bloomberg first reported that the identity of the customer in question was Fowler Oldfield, a Bradford-based gold and jewelry dealer which was completely liquidated after a police raid in 2016. In a statement by liquidators for Fowler Oldfield, dated December 2020, they said NatWest was the secured creditor and that the police held the company’s seized assets.
Fitch - an award-winning provider of credit ratings, commentary, and research – has stated that, “The news has no immediate rating impact on National Westminster Bank (A+/Negative) or the wider NatWest Group(NWG; A/Negative) given the amount of potentially suspicious transactions identified (GBP365 million, according to the FCA) and the fact that the alleged failings relate to a single client and do not appear to be widespread.”
If the proceedings were to reveal a more widespread weakness in risk management or governance, it could lead to further investigations though, including from other domestic or foreign authorities. A first court appearance is scheduled for April 14 atWestminster Magistrate’s Court.