The UK’s financial services industry regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), fined the UK branch of Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB) a total of £7.7 million “for serious weaknesses in its anti-money laundering (AML) systems and controls between October 2014 and July 2019,” the watchdog said in a statement on Tuesday.
The sanction signals the second time the lender would face punitive action touching on AML controls, having incurred a fine of £525,000 in August 2013 “for serious and systemic failings.”
FCA noted that GTB fell short of the obligation to track customer transactions and business dealings in conformity to expected standard, adding insiders and external sources continually pointed the flaws to GTB, which refrained from making moves to address them.
The financial institution ceased from signing up new customers beginning from early 2018, according to the FCA, the year during which GTB consented to broader voluntary limitations on business, considering the regulator’s ongoing worries.
“’GT Bank should have acted quickly to put in place adequate AML controls following its fine in 2013 but it failed to do so. GT Bank did not develop a plan that was capable of addressing its AML weaknesses, exposing it and the broader market to financial crime risks for a prolonged period,” said Mark Steward, FCA’s executive director of Enforcement and Market Oversight.
“’Firms must protect themselves and those dealing with them from financial crime risks, especially money laundering. The FCA is determined to ensure the market for financial services is safe, clean and trusted with robust systems and controls in place to stymie financial crime.”
The document said “GT Bank has not disputed the FCA’s findings and agreed to settle, which means it has qualified for a 30 per cent discount.”
The fine would have been in the neighbourhood of £11 million had it not been discounted.
The watchdog, which regulates the conduct of 50,000 companies in the country, expects functional AML controls to be installed by the firms it oversees to curb threats from persons and organisations using financial services firms to bypass checks aimed at blocking them from enjoying illicitly acquired assets.
Gbenga Alade, the Managing Director of GTBank UK, assured stakeholders and the general public that necessary steps have been taken to address and resolve the identified gaps.
“As a responsible financial services institution that is committed to best practices, GTBank UK takes its AML obligations extremely seriously.
“We note with sincere regret the FCA’s findings regarding AML control gaps in our operations in the past and we are very sorry for this,” he said.