Barclays admits breaking US sanctions

2010-08-16 20:44

Washington - Barclays Bank has agreed to pay nearly $300m to settle criminal charges that it violated U.S. sanctions in dealings with Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Myanmar, according to US court documents filed on Monday.

The London-based bank was charged with violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act in its dealings that involved $500 million from 1995 until September 2006, according to the documents.

The Barclays case marked the latest in a series brought by US prosecutors in recent months against major banks.

In December, prosecutors detailed a decades-long scheme by Credit Suisse Group AG to hide thousands of transactions on behalf of clients in Iran, Sudan, Libya and other nations. The Swiss bank agreed to pay $538m.

In March, US authorities said Wachovia Bank, now a unit of Wells Fargo & Co, agreed to pay $160m to settle US charges that it failed to stop more than $100m of Colombian and Mexican drug traffickers' money being laundered through accounts at the bank.

Barclays has agreed to pay $149m to the US government and a separate $149m in a deferred prosecution agreement with the district attorney in New York, according to the documents.

Barclays and US prosecutors entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that lasts 24 months. A federal judge still must approve the agreement. Should Barclays comply with the terms, the charges would be dismissed in two years.

In New York, Barclays spokesperson Michael O'Looney had no immediate comment.

Barclays voluntarily disclosed some of the prohibited transactions to US authorities, agreed to cooperate fully and conducted an internal investigation, according to the documents filed in federal court in Washington.

As part of its review, Barclays interviewed more than 175 current and former employees and reviewed more than 100 million records.

Barclays has acknowledged responsibility for its actions, according to the documents.

"Barclays violated both US and New York state criminal laws by knowingly and willfully moving or permitting to be moved hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of banks from Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Myanmar," according to the documents.

"To hide these illegal transactions, Barclays altered and routed payment messages" to ensure that the prohibited transactions could clear its branch in New York and other US financial institutions, according to the documents.