ING Bank N.V. agreed to pay $619 million to settle accusations that it had illegally moved billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities. The bank reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and the New York County District Attorney’s Office for conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA) and for violating New York state laws. ING Bank has also entered into a parallel settlement agreement with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), according to the Department of Justice.
According to court documents, starting in the early 1990s and continuing until 2007, ING Bank violated U.S. and New York state laws by moving more than $2 billion illegally through the U.S. financial system – via more than 20,000 transactions via its branch in Curaçao – on behalf of Cuban and Iranian entities subject to U.S. economic sanctions. ING Bank knowingly and willfully engaged in this criminal conduct, which caused unaffiliated U.S. financial institutions to process transactions that otherwise should have been rejected, blocked or stopped for investigation under regulations by OFAC relating to transactions involving sanctioned countries and parties.
ING Bank also eliminated payment data that would have revealed the involvement of sanctioned countries and entities, including Cuba and Iran; advised sanctioned clients on how to conceal their involvement in U.S. dollar transactions; fabricated ING Bank endorsement stamps for two Cuban banks to fraudulently process U.S. dollar travelers’ checks; and threatened to punish certain employees if they failed to take specified steps to remove references to sanctioned entities in payment messages. Over the years, several ING Bank employees raised concerns to management about the bank’s sanctions violations. However, no action was taken.
“The fine announced today is the largest ever against a bank in connection with an investigation into U.S. sanctions violations and related offenses and underscores the national security implications of ING Bank’s criminal conduct. For more than a decade, ING Bank helped provide state sponsors of terror and other sanctioned entities with access to the U.S. financial system, allowing them to move billions of dollars through U.S. banks for illicit purchases and other activities,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. “I applaud the agents, analysts and prosecutors who for years pursued this case.”
“Banks that try to skirt U.S. sanctions laws undermine the integrity of our financial system and threaten our national security,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “When banks place their loyalty to sanctioned clients above their obligation to follow the law, we will hold them accountable. On more than 20,000 occasions, ING intentionally manipulated financial and trade transactions to remove references to Iran, Cuba and other sanctioned countries and entities. Today’s $619 million forfeiture – the largest ever – holds ING accountable for its wrongdoing.”
“For years, ING Bank blatantly violated U.S. laws governing transactions involving Cuba and Iran, and then used shell companies and other deceptive measures to cover up its criminal conduct,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “Today’s resolution reflects a strong collaboration among federal and state law enforcement partners to hold ING accountable.”
“In today’s environment of increasingly sophisticated financial markets, it’s critical that global institutions follow U.S. law, including sanctions against other countries,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Weber. “The IRS is proud to share its world-renowned financial investigative expertise in this and other complex financial investigations. Creating new strategies and models of cooperation among our law enforcement partners to ensure international financial compliance is a top-priority of the IRS.”
“Our sanctions laws reflect core U.S. national security and foreign policy interests and OFAC polices them aggressively. Today’s historic settlement should serve as a clear warning to anyone who would consider profiting by evading U.S. sanctions,” said OFAC Director Szubin. “We commend our federal and state colleagues for their work on this important investigation.”
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