Major British bank fined for laundering trash bags full of cash
NatWest, the UK’s biggest business bank, has been fined £265 million ($350 million) for failing to prevent the laundering of nearly £400 million. It’s the first criminal money laundering case against a British bank.
The charges relate to the bank’s failure to properly monitor the activity of one of its commercial customers between 2012 and 2016. Eleven people have pleaded guilty in connection with the case, the trial of another 13 suspects is scheduled for April 2022.
According to the case, when NatWest took on a Bradford-based gold trading business, Fowler Oldfield, as a customer, the bank was told it would not handle cash from the firm. However, during the period, hundreds of millions of pounds was deposited into the bank, with some huge amounts in cash.
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) told the judge at a London crown court that couriers walked through the streets of towns across the country carrying bags of cash they deposited at the bank’s branches before the scheme was busted by police.
The court documents show that the company was depositing over $2 million in cash per day with NatWest at the height of its activity. There was so much cash that the trash bags used to transport it to the bank’s branches tore because they were so heavy. At times the bank’s safes were inadequate to store the amount of cash being deposited.
Some of the bank’s employees, who were responsible for handling those cash deposits, reported their suspicions to bank staff responsible for investigating suspected money laundering. However, no action was ever taken.
“We deeply regret that we failed to adequately monitor one of our customers between 2012 and 2016 for the purpose of preventing money laundering,” NatWest CEO Alison Rose said, adding that the bank would continue to invest in fighting financial crime.
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