ING Bank N.V. of Amsterdam has agreed to forfeit $619 million for its role in moving billions of dollars through U.S. financial institutions on behalf of Iranian and Cuban entities, according to charging documents filed today in Washington federal district court.
Federal prosecutors filed a one-count information against the bank, represented by Sullivan & Cromwell, for conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act. ING Bank agreed to the $619 million forfeiture in a deferred prosecution agreement (PDF) reached with the U.S. Justice Department and the New York County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said the bank executed more than 20,000 transactions, worth more than $2 billion, from the 1990s to 2007 on behalf of sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities. Those transactions, prosecutors said, would otherwise have been rejected, blocked or stopped for investigation under regulations targeting financial dealings with sanctioned entities.
Lisa Monaco, who leads the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said the $619 million fine is the largest ever against a bank in connection with an investigation into U.S. sanctions violations. “For more than a decade, ING Bank helped provide state sponsors of terror and other sanctioned entities with access to the U.S. financial system, allowing them to move billions of dollars through U.S. banks for illicit purchases and other activities,” Monaco said in a statement.
U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia said in a statement that banks that “try to skirt U.S. sanctions laws undermine the integrity of our financial system and threaten our national security.”
Prosecutors said ING Bank processed payments for its Cuban banking operations through a branch in Curaçao without reference to the origin of the payment. ING Bank, according to the government, told sanctioned clients about how to conceal their involvement in U.S. dollar transactions and the bank also threatened to punish employees for failing to remove references to payment messages.
Sullivan partner Karen Patton Seymour, who heads the firm’s criminal defense and investigations group, was not immediately reached for comment. Patton represented the bank with Sullivan partner Elizabeth Davy.
Jan Hommen, CEO of ING Group, said in a statement: “The violations that took place until 2007 are serious and unacceptable. The facts as compiled in the statement of the Department of Justice describe a very different ING than the company we’re all working so hard for today.”
Hommen said ING Bank “has taken decisive actions to strengthen compliance throughout the organisation and heighten employee awareness of compliance risks.”