RBS to pay £61m in fines over sanction-busting allegations

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Royal Bank of Scotland has agreed to pay £61m in fines to settle sanctions-busting allegations with American authorities.

They centre on the transfer of funds linked to countries including Burma, Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Libya during a four-year period between 2005 and 2009.

RBS staff are said to have “acted to conceal the identity of sanctioned clients by various means” including stripping out data from payment messages, according to a statement by the New York state Department of Financial Services (DFS).

The state-backed bank has sacked four employees including its head of global banking services for Asia, the Middle East and Africa and its head of money laundering prevention unit for corporate markets since a probe was launched in 2010. Other staff were subject to the misconduct probe but remain with the group.

It is the latest setback for the bank, which is 80 per cent owned by the taxpayer, following the surprise announcement of the departure of finance director Nathan Bostock.

There have also been a string of IT failures, and serious allegations about the way it has dealt with distressed business customers. RBS employees at payment processing centres in the UK were given written instructions containing a step-by-step guide on how to create and route US dollar payments involving “sanctioned entities” to avoid detection, the DFS said.

The instructions read: “Important: For all US dollar payments to a country subject to sanctions, a payment message cannot contain any of the following: 1. The sanctioned country name. 2. Any name designated on the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) restricted list, which can encompass a bank name, remitter or beneficiary.”

The allegations were said to involve more than 3,500 transactions valued at approximately £319m.

The penalties settle claims by the DFS.