The Dutch bank ABN Amro has reached an agreement with the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office to pay a fine of 480 million euros for not having done enough to prevent money laundering through its accounts between 2014 and 2020. The pact, announced this Monday, prevents the case from going to trial. Prosecutors have in turn confirmed the opening of investigations into the work of three former directors of the bank. Among them is Gerrit Zalm, who was Finance Minister and then Chairman of the Board of Directors of ABN Amro between 2008 and 2016. He now worked for Danish bank Danske Bank, which has announced his resignation as a member of the board of directors. In 2018, in the face of similar negligence, ING had to disburse 775 million euros when the Prosecutor’s Office itself considered it proven that, between 2010 and 2016, clients “were able to launder hundreds of millions of euros because no one supervised them.”
In a statement published this Monday, the Prosecutor’s Office points out that “several ABN Amro clients were able to use their accounts to carry out criminal activities for a long time, due to the lack of banking foresight to prevent money laundering and the possible financing of activities. terrorists ”. Among the cited examples are two clients who sent bribes to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht through their bank accounts.
Another case is that of an employee of Royal Flora Holland – one of the most important flower auction houses in the world – who defrauded millions of that entity. He was a gambling addict, and the amount stolen was 4.3 million euros channeled through an ABN account in Gibraltar, as well as various limited partnerships and gambling websites. The worker in question ended up in jail. Wopke Hoekstra, acting Finance Minister, has criticized and lamented on his Twitter account the bank’s failures and has said that he will analyze “the consequences with those responsible”.
Despite ING being investigated by the Anti-Fraud Office and fined in 2018, its colleagues at ABN Amro did not analyze its numbers until well into 2019, according to the Dutch financial press. That year, the Prosecutor’s Office opened the investigation because the bank officials had not alerted about the “infrequent” operations carried out through their accounts. The identity of the clients was also not fully verified, and the situation was brought to the attention of the authorities too late, according to the public prosecutor’s office. The bank had reason to know, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, that the money that entered and left in this way could come from a criminal environment, whether it was corruption, fraud or drug trafficking.
When the inquiries were announced, the Dutch National Bank ordered ABN Amro to thoroughly study the origin of its five million private accounts. Kees van Dijkhuizen, then CEO and now retired, explained: “We have to know exactly what our clients do with their accounts; we must put order because people are unhappy ”. This Monday, the entity asked in a statement “sincere apologies” for what happened. Robert Swaak, current CEO, added: “The failures of the past are unacceptable for which we hold ourselves fully responsible.”
In the case of the three bank executives investigated, the prosecutors will have to study the documents, reports and minutes of the meetings, as well as the emails and text messages that concern them. Gerrit Zalm is best known because he held the Finance portfolio in different governments for 13 years and was later the spokesman for his party, the right-wing Liberals, in Parliament. This part of the investigations is continuing, according to spokespersons for the Prosecutor’s Office. In 2020, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that Ralph Hamers, former executive director of ING, should be tried for his responsibility in the money laundering case that resulted in the fine of 775 million euros.
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