The bank made a swift apology by acknowledging that it had “serious shortcomings” in its systems, which had enabled customers with criminal intent to misuse its accounts.
A statement from the prosecutor said: “ING Bank NV in Amsterdam has accepted a settlement agreement and paid €775 mn ($897 mn) as proposed by the Dutch public prosecutor’s office.”
The amount included a $782 million fine and a reimbursement of $115 million, which ING underspent on staffing in order to prevent the crimes– as well as to carry out due diligence procedures.
The statement added that Netherland’s top bank was guilty of “serious omissions in the prevention of money laundering.”
“Clients were able to use accounts held with ING NL for criminal activities for many years, virtually undisturbed,” it stated, adding that the bank did not prevent customers from laundering “hundreds of millions of euros” between 2010 and 2016.
Two years ago, Financial investigators had launched a probe after investigations revealed that many white-collar crime suspects had held bank accounts at ING.
“This led to suspicions that ING NL was not sufficiently monitoring bank accounts and did not report unusual transactions, or reported them too late. ING NL missed potential signals of money laundering,” by not properly monitoring these suspects’ accounts, added the prosecutor’s statement.
Among them was an international telecommunications provider that “transferred bribes worth millions of dollars via its bank accounts with ING to a company owned by the daughter of a former Uzbek president.”
In another case a women’s underwear trader laundered $173 million through a bank account held at ING.
The prosecutors said: “It should have been clear to the bank that the monetary flows had little to do with the lingerie trade and were therefore unusual.”
When ING’s monitoring system did generate alerts, they were never further investigated and described by the bank as “not unusual.”
CEO Ralph Hamers stated the bank “takes full responsibility” for failing to ensure no crime was committed.
“As a bank we have the obligation to ensure that our operations meet the highest standards, especially where it comes to preventing criminals from misusing the financial system,” he said.
“It’s been a bad day for ING,” Hamers concluded.
ING stated that it has taken measures against various senior employees, including freezing salaries and bonuses and suspension without pay. ING is the Netherland’s largest bank, which posted a total profit of $5.6 billion in 2017. It warned that the settlement “will have an impact on ING’s third quarter 2018 results.”
Finance Minister Hoekstra stated that the latest scandal at ING was extremely serious.”Once again it affects confidence in the financial sector,” he said in a statement sent to AFP.
In 2012, ING agreed to pay a record US$619 million to the US authorities to settle accusations that it had violated American sanctions banning transactions with Cuba, Iran, Myanmar and Sudan.
ING has over 52,000 employees and customers in over 40 countries.