Neil Williams of business crime solicitors Rahman Ravelli looks at the figures and gives a UK perspective.
A total of $8.14 billion was imposed in fines for money laundering in 2019, with almost half the number of penalties being given to banks.
Regulators in the US imposed 25 penalties totalling $2.29 billion while the UK handed out 12 fines amounting to $388.4 million. The largest single monetary fine was the $5.1 billion imposed in France after Swiss bank UBS was found guilty of illegally soliciting clients and laundering the proceeds of tax evasion.
The average monetary fine for money laundering in 2019 was $145.33 million. Of the 58 penalties imposed, 28 were given to banks – a 48% figure that is lower than the 68% for banks in 2018.
Fines were handed down by regulators across multiple jurisdictions, including Belgium, Bermuda, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway and Tanzania.
2014 still holds the record for the highest total value of AML fines, at $10.89 billion. But this figure includes the huge $8.9 billion imposed on French bank BNP Paribas – without this, 2019 would be the highest annual total.
The UK is far from reluctant to impose penalties, as these figures show. It is also the case that the trend in the UK for such penalties is an upward one. But this is a trend that is slower than in some other jurisdictions.
This will certainly be a focus for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) going forward. This is reflected in the FCA’s re-investment in the tools it has available in its armour, such as improved data analytics and innovative technology. Such tools can only assist in the handling and expediting of investigations of this type.