Posts Tagged ‘correspondent banking’

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J.P. Morgan to Saudi banksters: buh-bye!

March 4, 2014

Fed up with a lack of transparency and flimsy know-your-customer policies, J.P. Morgan has severed ties with the Saudi-based Al Rajhi bank.  The sharia bank, whose founder was named in the Golden Chain list of Al Qaeda benefactors, has provided financial services for East Africa embassy bomber Mamduh Mahmud Salim, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, and dangerous Wahhabi organizations like Indonesian Kompak and the Al-Haramain foundation.

Thanks to Sal for sending this over from Bloomberg:

JPMorgan Said Cut Tie to Saudi Bank Amid Focus on Control

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) dropped Al-Rajhi Bank, the world’s largest Shariah-compliant lender, as a correspondent banking client amid a push to improve risk controls, said two people with direct knowledge of the move.

The relationship with Saudi Arabia’s biggest publicly traded bank ended Dec. 31 because JPMorgan couldn’t get enough information on where payments in dollar-clearing services for Al-Rajhi had originated, said one of the people, who requested anonymity because the decision wasn’t public.

JPMorgan said it cut off the service to about 500 foreign lenders last year as regulators press the world’s biggest banks to verify that transactions are used for legitimate business. The crackdown seeks to halt funds tied to money laundering, terrorism and countries covered by economic sanctions. Correspondent accounts allow lenders to take deposits or make payments on behalf of foreign institutions.

“JPMorgan has to be extra careful to make sure they’re adhering to standards and not even approaching anything questionable,” said David Kass, a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.

The two banks haven’t been cited by U.S. regulators for involvement in illegal money transfers. Tasha Pelio, a JPMorgan spokeswoman, declined to comment on clients of the company, which is based in New York and ranks as the nation’s largest lender by assets. A spokesman for Al-Rajhi (RJHI) didn’t respond to inquiries, and there was no response to messages sent to the firm’s Riyadh headquarters.

Biggest Holders

Al-Rajhi, founded in 1957 by billionaire Sulaiman Al Rajhi, had 9,000 employees and about 500 branches in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Malaysia and Kuwait, according to a January 2012 media kit. Members of the Al Rajhi family, one of Saudi Arabia’s richest, are the biggest shareholders of the company, which had $74.6 billion of assets on Dec. 31, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Shariah-compliant financial firms provide products adhering to Islam’s ban on interest.

The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency ordered JPMorgan to improve anti-money-laundering efforts last year, finding that its controls tied to the Bank Secrecy Act were inadequate. The firm failed to find out enough about banking customers and identify suspicious activity, according to the January 2013 consent order. The Bank Secrecy Act requires firms to report all large cash deposits to help prevent crimes such as drug-trafficking and terrorist financing…

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Potential game changer in terror finance law

November 29, 2012

A ruling by the New York Court of Appeals may change the way terror financiers take advantage of correspondent bank relationships in the U.S.  Kudos to Shurat HaDin for pushing this case forward (and for linking to the news too).

This ruling will probably cause a stir among bank compliance circles because it could be difficult and expensive to conduct sufficient screening of correspondent banks.  But the alternative, which is to passively condone terrorist transactions in your bank that originated from a foreign bank, isn’t such a great alternative.

Given the size and centrality of the financial sector in New York, this state-level ruling will have international consequences.

From the Jerusalem Post on Nov. 21:

Lebanon War victims alter game of terror financing

Terror groups may no longer be able to do transactions in US dollars after a groundbreaking ruling by the highest state court in New York, the New York Court of Appeals, announced Shurat Hadin, the Israel Law Center, on Wednesday.

The ruling was issued on Tuesday in favor of victims of Hezbollah rocket attacks from the 2006 Lebanon War and could be a “game changer” in the global financial war on terror financing.

Until now, terror financing could avoid scrutiny in the US by making fund transfers through American correspondent banks.

A correspondent bank essentially serves as a middle bank for fund transfer for banks that do not have local US branches.

As long as the terrorist-affiliated banks had no local branch in the US they were insulated from any legal consequences, and the correspondent bank could plead ignorance regarding the transactions.

However, using a new interpretation of an existing law, the appeals court ruled that correspondent banks will now be held liable for civil damages if it is found that they facilitated transactions that ultimately can be traced back to terror entities.

This places the onus on correspondent banks to do more careful policing of where fund transfers are eventually going even behind sometimes what could be many layers of straw companies to hide that terrorists are receiving the money.

Most importantly, many correspondent banks simply may cease involvement in any transactions where they have doubts about a possible terror connection to avoid even the possibility of heavy civil liability and bad press.

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Turkish Bank fined £294,000 for violation

October 24, 2012

Turkish Bank has settled with Britain’s financial regulator for breaking rules written to prevent money laundering.  What’s surprising about this story is that the U.K. had already warned Turkish Bank about its practices, but the bank continued the same behavior anyway.  One wonders who exactly, such as corrupt politicians in the Middle East, may have been depositing funds into Turkish accounts without adequate screening procedures.

From this month’s edition of Anti-Money Laundering Magazine:

Turkish Bank loses its sweetness

The Financial Services Authority (FSA) has fined Turkish Bank (UK) Ltd (TBUK) £294,000 for breaching the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 (MLR).

These breaches – which related to TBUK’s correspondent banking arrangements – were widespread and took place over two-and-a-half years. They led to an unacceptable risk that TBUK could have been used to launder money. This is the first occasion in which the FSA has taken enforcement action against a firm in relation to money laundering weaknesses in its correspondent banking arrangements.

TBUK is a wholly owned subsidiary of Turkish Bank Limited which is incorporated in Northern Cyprus. TBUK’s customer base is mainly retail. TBUK offers a range of financial services, including correspondent banking. Correspondent banking involves a bank (correspondent) providing banking services to an overseas bank (respondent) to enable the respondent to provide its own customers with cross-border products and services, such as payment and clearing that it cannot provide them with itself. TBUK acted as a correspondent bank for nine respondent banks in Turkey and six respondent banks in Northern Cyprus between 15 December 2007 and 3 July 2010.

Under the MLR, providing correspondent banking services to banks based in non-European Economic Areas states is recognised as creating a high risk of money laundering that requires enhanced due diligence and ongoing monitoring of the relationship. During this period, Turkey and Northern Cyprus did not have anti-money laundering (AML) requirements that were equivalent to those in the UK.

The FSA visited TBUK in July 2010 as part of a thematic review of how banks operating in the UK were managing money laundering risks. This thematic review resulted in the eye-popping report released in July 2011. It contained alarming findings. The FSA’s visit to TBUK gave serious cause for concern in relation to TBUK’s AML controls over correspondent banking leading to this enforcement action.

TBUK’s breaches of the MLR included failing to:

  • establish and maintain appropriate and risk-sensitive AML policies and procedures for its correspondent banking relationships
  • carry out adequate due diligence on, and ongoing monitoring of, the respondent banks it dealt with and failing to reconsider these relationships when this was not possible
  • maintain adequate records relating to the above.

While not deliberate or reckless, these failings were more serious because the FSA had previously warned TBUK of deficiencies in its approach to AML controls over correspondent banking.

Tracey McDermott, Acting Director of the Enforcement and Financial Crime Division, said: “Turkish Bank fell far short of the standards we expect of firms in managing their money laundering risks. This was despite clear warnings from the FSA that it needed to improve”…

In other news, Turkey faces expulsion from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development for its insufficient efforts in “blocking the financing of terrorist groups” if it doesn’t tighten its laws within four months.