On 7th October, NatWest entered guilty pleas at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to criminal charges under the Money Laundering Regulations 2007 ( MLR 2007).
This is the FCA's first prosecution under the MLR 2007.NatWest has accepted failing to monitor suspect activity by Fowler Oldfield, a Bradford-based gold dealer and jewellery wholesaler, which deposited £365m over a five-year period from 2012-2016 including £264m in cash. The gold dealer was shut down after a police investigation in 2016 into what was alleged to be “an extremely sophisticated” money laundering operation.
NatWest will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court in December and is facing a fine in excess of £300m. Having pleaded guilty at the first available opportunity, it will be advanced on behalf of NatWest that it is entitled to full credit which means a discount of 1/3 for any fine that the Judge considers should be imposed.
The outcome of the case will be followed closely by all in the banking sector. It is clear that money laundering and tax evasion will increasingly be the focus of regulators; breaches of anti-money-laundering regulations are emerging more frequently in many jurisdictions. The spotlight remains on the risk to banks from compliance and governance failings.