On Monday, April 19, 2021, a Dutch bank known as ABN AMRO claimed in a statement that it had reached a massive $574 million (480 million euro) settlement with Dutch prosecutors. The settlement revolves around charges brought by prosecutors in the Netherlands over money laundering allegations.
In its statement, ABN AMRO conceded that it had agreed to pay at least two separate fees as part of the high-profile settlement. The first was a 300 million euro fine, with the second fee being a disgorgement of 180 million euros. According to ABN AMRO, these fines resulted from the seriousness of the scope of their failures to combat money laundering.
It is unclear what effect these payments and the greater settlement will have on ABN AMRO’s first-quarter market performance.
ABN AMRO Money Laundering Probe Likely an Offshoot of Record-Breaking ING Settlement
The investigation of money laundering at ABN AMRO by Dutch prosecutors began nearly a year after another Dutch bank known as ING was forced to pay a massive 775 million euro fine as part of a larger settlement into a very similar money laundering case. In this light, ABN AMRO merely represents the latest Dutch bank to fall foul of the country’s strict policies on banks taking a stand against money laundering.
Conclusion of a Two Year Probe
According to prosecutors, the money-laundering probe into ABN AMRO began in 2019. In September of that year, Dutch prosecutors formally accused ABN AMRO of not doing enough to spot accounts with known links to money laundering. In addition, say, prosecutors, ABN AMRO declined to end relationships with suspicious clients likely involved in money laundering. As a final measure, prosecutors claimed that ABN AMRO failed to report suspicious banking transactions to Dutch authorities.
According to ABN AMRO’s Chief Executive Robert Swaak, this settlement with the Dutch authorities has taught lessons to the bank about the need for them to be financial gatekeepers to help build a safer society. In the company’s own words, ABN AMRO has failed in its duties as a gatekeeper against money laundering.
High Profile Employees Under Threat
While ABN AMRO’s Chief Executive Robert Swaak has claimed that this settlement marks the end of AMRO’s money laundering scandal, Dutch prosecutors may not agree. According to prosecutors in the Netherlands, the money laundering investigation is still ongoing. In principle, the investigation claimed that three former members of ABN AMRO’s board had been identified as suspects in the ongoing case. Dutch authorities believe that these three former board members are the ones who are most at fault and responsible for the violation of the Netherlands’ anti-money laundering act.
Authorities declined to name these three members, but actions taken by at least one former member of ABN AMRO’s board following the settlement suggest that they may be among the targeted employees. Following news of the settlement, another Dutch Bank, Danske Bank, announced that its Chief Executive Christ Vogelzang had resigned. Notably, Vogelzang had previously served on the executive board at ABN AMRO. According to Vogelzang, he resigned after being targeted by a Dutch money laundering probe. It is likely that the probe to which he refers is the ABN AMRO case.
It is likely that former board members such as Vogelzang will be prosecuted in a similar manner to those targeted in the ING settlement. While the ING settlement claimed that no high-profile staff would face prosecution, a Dutch court ordered a criminal investigation into former ING CEO Ralph Hamers’ role in the bank’s money-laundering scandal in December 2020.
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