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Regulations breached

NatWest pleads guilty to money laundering charge

NatWest admitted to three offences

National Westminster Bank, formerly Royal Bank of Scotland group, has today pleaded guilty to three offences of money laundering.

The offences relate to its failure to comply with regulation of the accounts of a UK incorporated customer between 2012 and 2016.

These regulations required the firm to determine and conduct risk sensitive ongoing monitoring of its customers for the purposes of preventing money laundering.

NatWest admitted the offences at a hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today.

Prosecutors at the Financial Conduct Authority alleged the bank failed to monitor suspect activity by a client that deposited about £365m in its accounts over five years, of which £264m was in cash.

Alison Rose

Alison Rose: deep regret (pic: Terry Murden)

News media have said the client at the centre of the case is collapsed Bradford-based gold dealership Fowler Oldfield, which was shut down following a police raid in 2016.

NatWest CEO, Alison Rose, said:  “We deeply regret that NatWest failed to adequately monitor and therefore prevent money laundering by one of our customers between 2012 and 2016.

“NatWest has a vital part to play in detecting and preventing financial crime and we take extremely seriously our responsibility to prevent money laundering by third parties.

“In the years since this case, we have invested significant resources and continue to enhance our efforts to effectively combat financial crime. We work tirelessly with colleagues, other banks, industry bodies, law enforcement, regulators, and governments to help find collaborative solutions to this shared challenge. These partnerships are crucial to counter the significant and evolving threat of financial crime to society.”

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NatWest has cooperated fully with the FCA since its investigation began. The FCA has confirmed it will not take action against any individual current or former employee of NatWest. NatWest is not aware of, and is not anticipating, any other authority investigating its conduct in this matter.

The case has been remitted to the Crown Court for sentencing which will be determined at a subsequent hearing, expected to be in four to eight weeks’ time. A provision will be made in NatWest’s Q3 2021 financial accounts in anticipation of a potential fine being imposed at that hearing.

NatWest said it continues to make significant investments to strengthen and improve its overall financial crime control framework with prevention systems and capabilities.

The bank has invested almost £700m in the last five years including upgrades to transaction monitoring systems, automated customer screening and new customer due diligence solutions.

NatWest currently has more than 5,000 staff in specialist financial crime roles, dedicated to detecting and preventing financial crime under the leadership and focus of a centralised bank-wide ‘FinCrime Hub’. 

As part of its ongoing programme of investment in its people, processes and technology, NatWest’s financial plans already include over £1bn to further strengthen financial crime controls over the next five years.

This affects investment in new technologies and capabilities to further enhance customer due diligence, transaction monitoring, sanctions and anti-bribery and corruption systems.



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