Article: The war against money-laundering is being lost

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The war against money-laundering is being lost

The Economist, 12 April 2021

The global system for financial crime is hugely expensive and largely ineffective.

YET ANOTHER bank is preparing to face the music over alleged failings in its efforts to curb flows of dirty money. In the coming weeks NatWest, one of Britain’s largest lenders, is set to appear in court in London to respond to charges that it failed to properly scrutinise a gold-dealing client that deposited £365m ($502m) with the bank—£264m of it in cash.

NatWest (which has said it is co-operating with the investigation) is the latest in a long line of banks to be accused of falling short in the fight against dirty money. Last year global lenders were hit with $10.4bn in penalties for money-laundering violations, an increase of more than 80% on 2019, according to Fenergo, a compliance-software firm. In January Capital One, an American bank, was fined $390m for failing to report thousands of suspicious transactions. Danske Bank is still dealing with the fallout of a scandal that erupted in 2018. Over $200bn of potentially dirty money was washed through the Danish lender’s small Estonian branch while executives missed or ignored a sea of red flags.

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