- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Amsterdam-based ING Bank N.V. agreed Tuesday to forfeit $619 million to the Justice Department and the New York County District Attorney´s Office for conspiring to illegally move billions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of sanctioned Cuban and Iranian entities.

It is the largest ever forfeiture against a bank in connection with an investigation into U.S. sanctions violations.

Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco, who heads the Justice Department’s National Security Division, said the bank “knowingly and willfully” conspired to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), the Trading With the Enemy Act (TWEA) and New York state laws.

According to a criminal information filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, ING Bank waived a federal indictment, agreed to the filing of the information and accepted responsibility for its criminal conduct and that of its employees.

The bank agreed to forfeit $619 million as part of the deferred prosecution agreements reached with federal and New York prosecutors.

Court documents show that beginning in the early 1990s and continuing until 2007, ING Bank moved more than $2 billion illegally through the U.S. financial system – via more than 20,000 transactions – on behalf of Cuban and Iranian entities subject to U.S. economic sanctions. The records said the bank’s actions caused unaffiliated U.S. financial institutions to process transactions that otherwise should have been rejected, blocked or stopped.

Ms. Monaco said the agreement underscored the national security implications of ING Bank´s criminal conduct.

“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,” she said. “I applaud the agents, analysts and prosecutors who for years pursued this case.”

According to court records, ING Bank committed its criminal conduct by, among other things, processing payments for its Cuban banking operations through its branch in Curacao on behalf of Cuban customers without reference to the payments´ origin, and by providing U.S. dollar trade finance services to sanctioned entities through misleading payment messages, shell companies and the misuse of its internal accounts.

The records show that the bank also eliminated payment data that would have revealed the involvement of sanctioned countries and entities, including Cuba and Iran; advised sanctioned clients on how to conceal their involvement in U.S. dollar transactions; fabricated bank endorsement stamps for two Cuban banks to fraudulently process U.S. dollar travelers´ checks; and threatened to punish certain employees if they failed to take specified steps to remove references to sanctioned entities in payment messages.

They also show that this conduct occurred in various business units in the bank´s wholesale division and in locations around the world with the “knowledge, approval and encouragement of senior corporate managers and legal and compliance departments.”

ING Bank forfeited $309.5 million to the United States and $309.5 million to the New York County District Attorney’s Office.