UK fines Santander over ‘gaps’ in anti-money laundering controls

‘Serious and persistent gaps’ are uncovered in the anti-money laundering controls of the UK arm of the Spanish bank.

Customers use ATM machines at the Surrey Quays branch of Santander Bank, whilst the premises remain closed , in Surrey Quays, south London
Customers use ATM machines at the Surrey Quays branch of Santander bank in south London [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

Britain has hit the United Kingdom arm of Spanish banking giant Santander with a fine of nearly 108 million pounds ($132m) after uncovering “serious and persistent gaps” in anti-money laundering controls.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) said in a statement on Friday that it had concluded that Santander UK PLC “failed to properly oversee and manage its anti-money laundering (AML) systems” between December 2012 and October 2017.

The failures affected more than 560,000 business customers.

Santander did not dispute the findings and therefore qualified for a 30-percent discount, otherwise the fine would have totalled nearly 154 million pounds ($188m).

“Santander’s poor management of their AML systems and their inadequate attempts to address the problems created a prolonged and severe risk of money laundering and financial crime,” added Mark Steward, FCA executive director of enforcement and market oversight.

“As part of our commitment to prevent and reduce financial crime, we continue to take action against firms which fail to operate proper anti-money laundering controls.”

Full cooperation

In response, Santander UK accepted the conclusions and apologised, adding it had cooperated fully.

“Santander takes its responsibilities regarding financial crime extremely seriously,” said CEO Mike Regnier in a separate statement.

“We are very sorry for the historical AML related controls issues in our business banking division.”

He stressed that Santander UK had taken action to address the issues once they were identified, but added that its systems should have been stronger.

“We have since made significant changes to address this by overhauling our financial crime technology, systems and processes.”

The division now has more than 4,400 staff who focus on financial crime prevention, which is a key focus for Spanish parent Santander.

Source: AFP