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ABN Amro to settle 480 mn euro criminal probe

The Netherlands’ third-largest bank ABN Amro is to pay a 480-million-euro ($575 million) settlement to prosecutors following a money-laundering probe, the bank announced on Monday.

The announcement follows a 2019 investigation by prosecutors who said the Amsterdam-based bank failed to sufficiently monitor bank accounts and did not report “unusual transactions” or reported them too late.

“Between 2014 to 2020, ABN Amro… failed to fulfil its role as gatekeeper with a view to combating money laundering,” ABN Amro admitted in a statement.

The bank “has accepted a transaction of 480 million euros offered by the Public Prosecution Service,” it added.

Prosecutors focused on ABN Amro after its supervisor, the Dutch Central Bank (DNB), ordered it in August 2019 to audit all five million of its private clients.

Two former top ABN Amro officials, former manager Chris Vogelzang and former chief executive Gerrit Zalm, announced Monday they were resigning from their current jobs at Denmark’s Danske Bank as a result of the findings.

Departing Danske Bank chief executive Vogelzang was now a suspect in the case, Dutch media reports added.

Prosecutors said three individuals in total were under investigation, without naming them.

“I am very surprised by the Dutch authorities,” Vogelzang said in a statement.

“I left ABN Amro more than four years ago and am comfortable with the fact that I managed my management responsibilities with integrity and dedication,” he said in a statement, issued on Danske Bank’s website.

“My status as a suspect does not imply that I will be charged,” Vogelzang added.

Seriously failed

For its part, the Dutch public prosecution service said that by making the payment, “ABN Amro has taken accountability for the commission of criminal offences.”

The bank “seriously failed to comply” with a Dutch law aimed at stopping money laundering and preventing funds from being used for terrorism, prosecutors said.

“Various clients who engage in criminal activities have been able to abuse ABN Amro’s accounts and services for a long time,” prosecutors said in a statement.

“ABN Amro should have seen that certain flows of money that went through the bank accounts… may have originated from a crime.”

“The bank has not taken sufficient action against this,” they added.

Investors appeared relieved at Monday’s announcement taking the legal risks to the bank off the table, as ABN Amro’s share price rose by almost 2.0 percent in early morning trading in Amsterdam.

The ABN Amro probe came in the wake of a massive 775-million-euro ($928 million) fine dished out to top Dutch bank ING in 2018 over money laundering after it failed to ensure its accounts were not misused.

That scandal saw ING axe its chief financial officer Koos Timmermans after a two-year probe by Dutch authorities that found many white-collar crime suspects held accounts at the bank.

The case threatened to seriously damage ING’s reputation and triggered calls for its directors to resign.

The Dutch state is still a majority stakeholder in ABN Amro after bailing the bank out following the 2008 crisis.

ABN Amro returned to Amsterdam’s stock exchange in 2015 in what was described as “one of the biggest IPOs by a European lender since the financial crisis”.

The Netherlands’ third-largest bank behind ING and Rabobank, ABN Amro traces its roots back to the 19th century.

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