UK regulator contacts lenders on ‘Laundromat’ money-laundering claims

The UK’s financial watchdog has written to a number of the UK’s largest banks including Royal Bank of Scotland, requesting information about an alleged global money laundering scheme.

The Financial Conduct Authority has contacted up to 17 banks in relation to a Russian money laundering scheme dubbed “the Laundromat”, to glean information on their alleged role in processing hundreds of millions of pounds of payments between 2010 and 2014.

RBS said on Monday that the FCA, and other global regulators, had been in contact to gain information about the allegations. The state-backed lender said in a statement that it has responded to the FCA and is in the process of responding to other regulators.

RBS said: “In common with other banks, in March 2017 RBS received a request for information from the FCA in relation to this matter. RBS has also received similar requests from regulators in other jurisdictions.”

Last week, Simon Kirby, the City minister, was forced to answer a question in parliament about the latest revelations in the Guardian newspaper. The Financial Conduct Authority said afterwards: “Clearly these are serious allegations and we will investigate any evidence
that we receive.”

The watchdog has been scouring over the information provided several weeks ago by the Guardian, which revealed UK-based banks had processed nearly 2,000 transactions amounting to $740m for companies set up as part of the Laundromat scheme.

HSBC was the largest conduit for the payments, handling $545.3m, mostly through its Hong Kong subsidiary. Royal Bank of Scotland handled $113.1m and its Coutts private bank in Switzerland handled $32.8m.

The FCA declined to comment.

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