Santander UK has become the latest bank to be hit with a heavy fine by the country’s financial regulator over anti-money laundering failings. The Financial Conduct Authority said that it had fined the UK division of the Spanish bank £107.8 mn for failing to manage its systems properly, which affected the way it dealt with 560,000 business customers.
It is the largest fine Santander UK has received from the FCA and one of the regulator’s biggest anti-money laundering penalties. The regulator found that between 2012 and 2017 the bank’s systems were not able to properly verify information provided by customers about their businesses. It is the latest sign of the regulator taking banks to task over their failure to stem flows of dirty money. The FCA has previously taken action against three other lenders. It fined HSBC £64 mn in 2021 and rebuked the bank for “serious weaknesses” in its anti-money laundering controls. It fined Standard Chartered £102 mn in 2019, and NatWest was fined £264.7 mn by a London court for failing to prevent a £365 mn alleged money laundering scheme. The regulator’s largest anti-money laundering fine to date was handed out to Deutsche Bank in 2017 after $10 bn was transferred from Russia to offshore bank accounts. The German lender was fined £163 mn.
The FCA pointed to one case at Santander UK involving an account belonging to a customer with a small translation business. The company expected monthly deposits of £5,000 but within six months it was receiving millions in deposits and quickly moving the money elsewhere. Santander UK would have been fined £154 mn, but received a 30 per cent discount because it did not dispute the FCA’s findings and agreed to settle.