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Global money laundering fines double as banks pay up £6.2 billion ($8.14 billion) in penalties

Global banks have been hit with a staggering £6.2bn in fines for breaching anti-money laundering (AML) regulations last year, according to official figures. This is double the amount, and nearly double the value, of penalties handed out in 2018, when 29 fines of $4.27bn (£3.2bn) were imposed.

Regulators in the USA were most active, handing out 25 penalties totalling $2.29bn with the next largest market the UK, with 12 fines totalling £297.3m ($388.4m).

The data, analysed by Encompass Corporation, a leading provider of intelligently automated Know Your Customer (KYC) solutions, examined Anti-Money Laundering (AML) related penalties handed down between 1 January and 31 December 2019, in total 58 AML penalties were imposed.

The figures revealed that fines have 58 AML penalties handed down globally in 2019, totaling $8.14bn. The single largest monetary fine was $5.1bn and originated from France. Meanwhile the average monetary fine for 2019 was $145.33m. The data revealed that 2019 was record year, in terms of number of penalties handed out (58), ahead of 2016 (47).

Under half of penalties given out in 2019 were to banks (28 of 58), compared to two-thirds in 2018 (20 of 29). Penalties handed down by regulators across multiple jurisdictions beyond the USA and UK: these were Belgium, Bermuda, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Tanzania.

In terms of fines, 2014 still holds the record for the highest total value of fines at $10.89bn, but this includes an anomalously large penalty of $8.9bn. If this were to be removed, 2019 would take the lead.

Wayne Johnson, Co-Founder and CEO of Encompass Corporation, comments:

“Since 2015, annual AML penalty figures have been steadily rising each year. Multi-million dollar fines have been commonplace for a while, but we are now seeing more penalties of one billion dollars or over, with two in 2019 alone.

Historically, the majority of these fines have been given to banks, but this year the proportion was less than half, demonstrating that money laundering is now recognised as a general business issue, not just one that is specific to financial services. Regulators in the gambling/gaming sector were particularly active in 2019, handing out five fines, all of which were well over $1 million and the highest being $7.2 million. Interestingly, four of these were in the UK, demonstrating a crackdown here.

The USA continues to lead the way, having handed out the most penalties this year at 25 – more than twice the amount of the UK, the country in second place. Given that these two countries have transparent regulatory cultures and active regulatory bodies, we expect we shall continue to see the largest number of fines originate from here, but we are seeing activity from increasing numbers of jurisdictions as time goes on. For example, in 2019, penalties were handed out by 14 countries, compared to just three a decade ago in 2009.

We are not expecting the spotlight on money laundering to dim. The continued and increased focus on this area highlights the severity with which it is viewed at a global level, which is not surprising given the negative economic and societal repercussions it can have. As we head into 2020, we shall continue to monitor and analyse AML penalty data with interest to see how it evolves.“

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Nick Till .

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