FCA has fined Guaranty Trust Bank (UK) Ltd, the UK subsidiary of Guaranty Trust Nigeria Bank Limited, over £7.5m for AML systems and controls weaknesses spanning a period of nearly 5 years to July 2019. It had previously fined the bank for AML failings in 2013. Although the 2013 fine was for a lesser amount, FCA noted that the later failings were particularly “egrarious” because that fine also related to serious and systemic failings, and that the bank should have acted quickly to put in place appropriate controls following that fine.
The new fine relates to failure on the bank’s part to:
- undertake adequate customer risk assessments and
- monitor customer transactions and business relationships to the required standard
The bank, part of a larger group that provides a range of financial services across Africa and internationally, was often the entry point to the UK financial system for several customers from, or closely linked to, jurisdictions with higher vulnerability to money laundering, terrorist financing and corruption, mainly for mortgage and trade finance products to African counterparties. As such, it should have had in place robust systems and controls, but it did not have these, and, while it worked to remediate the problems that resulted in the 2013 fine, progress was too slow. FCA found that the bank often did not assess or document the ML risks its customers posed, and failed to take appropriate action to address the failings on several occasions, after they were highlighted to it by both internal and external sources, including the FCA. In 2018 the bank first agreed to stop taking on new customers and then agreed to wider restrictions on its business, which were only lifted in 2021 after the bank completed a remediation plan.
The fine was so large in part because the failings had mirrored previous misconduct.