Santander fined $132 million by the UK authorities for anti-money laundering safeguards

Santander was fined 107.7 million pounds ($132 million) by the Financial Conduct Authority for “serious and persistent” deficiencies in the Spanish bank’s anti-money laundering systems for more than 560,000 business customers.

The FCA stated on Friday that Santander’s UK unit failed to effectively oversee and manage its anti-money laundering systems between December 31, 2012, and October 18, 2017.

The sanction is the latest measure taken by the UK’s financial watchdog in an effort to crack down on banks’ lax internal procedures, which allow illicit funds to flow through them.

A man uses an ATM machine at a Santander bank branch in Ronda, Spain, on October 25, 2022.

Santander had ineffective systems to verify the information provided by customers about the business they would be doing, the FCA said.
“In one case, a new customer opened an account as a small translations business with expected monthly deposits of 5,000 pounds. Within six months, it was receiving millions in deposits, and swiftly transferring the money to separate accounts,” Mark Steward, FCA executive director for enforcement, said in a statement.

Although the bank’s anti-money laundering staff identified the account for closure in March 2014, weak processes delayed action until September 2015, according to the FCA.

Santander UK has stated that it accepts the FCA’s civil regulatory conclusions regarding anti-money laundering controls in its business banking segment. According to the FCA, the bank earned a 30% reduction in its penalties for agreeing to settle.

The FCA inquiry is concluded, and no further action by the UK watchdog or any other entity is expected in this area, according to the bank.

In recent years, the FCA has increased its enforcement of bank money laundering measures.

In December of last year, NatWest was fined 265 million pounds for failing to prevent money laundering of nearly 400 million pounds, in the first criminal money laundering case against a British bank.

The FCA has also fined Standard Chartered and HSBC in the last three years for anti-money laundering breaches.