Friday 26 February 2021

Public prosecutor probes ABN Amro board over money laundering compliance


The public prosecution office is close to a multi-million euro out of court settlement with ABN Amro for failing to prevent large-scale money laundering at the bank but is also looking into the criminal prosecution of individuals, among them former CEO Gerrit Zalm, the Financieele Dagblad reported on Wednesday.

Sources close to the justice ministry told the paper that the bank is yet to formally confirm the version of events presented by the public prosecutor but that a settlement is all but completed.

It is expected that the bank will have to pay a fine running into the hundreds of millions of euros, the paper said. It will also have to submit to close monitoring of practices to  by the Dutch national bank DNB.

The public prosecution department also wants to establish if board members and the then-chairman Gerrit Zalm can be held personally responsible and charged for breaking laws on money laundering and financing terrorist activity which took place on their watch.

The focus of the investigation, which started in 2019, is on the period between 2013 and 2018 when most of the illegal transactions are thought to have taken place. Zalm was in charge of the bank for the whole of the period.

The settlement does not exclude the possibility of the prosecution of individuals as was the case in the ING money laundering scandal. The record €775m out of court settlement reached with ING for similar failings was widely criticised because bankers were perceived to have been let off. There was similar criticism after the Rabobank Libor interest rate scandal.

However, ING CEO Ralph Hamers may now face charges after a court ruled in favour of an appeal launched by campaign group Sobi.

Whether Zalm and other board members, or indeed Hamers, will be prosecuted is a moot point, insiders told the paper. The justice department will have to prove not only that they knew what was going on but that they turned a blind eye.

‘To prove that a person is guilty of actively doing something is one thing, but to prove he has actively neglected to do something is incredibly hard,’ one source told the paper.

ABN Amro and lawyers representing some of Zalm’s team have declined to comment on the claims, the FD said.

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