Estonia – bank to contest FIU’s €300,000 fine for breaching sanctions

LHV Pank in Estonia has today issued a press release to say that it intends to challenge a fine of €300,000 imposed on it by the FIU for breaching EU sanctions.

According to the press release the fines were imposed in relation to three incidents (two in 2022 and one in 2023) where the bank is accused of insufficiently rigorous due diligence and of permitting a transaction in breach of sanctions.

The press release does not state which sanctions regime the conduct relates to.

The bank says it takes regulatory compliance seriously and will challenge the fine in court.

Malta – first published fine imposed by Sanctions Monitoring Board

Malta’s Sanctions Monitoring Board (the “SMB”) has, for the first time , imposed a fine for breach of EU sanctions.

The company in question was ArabMillionaire Limited. The SMB publishes the names of all company’s fined more than €800, but the size of the fine is otherwise unspecified.

Also unspecified is the conduct giving rise to the fine, but it was said to have been identified “at the time of supervisory examination conducted between June and August 2020”.

It is unclear when the fine was issued as this information is not specified on the website and the Sanctions Monitoring Board has confirmed that such information is confidential.

ArabMillionaire operated as an online casino (trading as based in Dubai. It’s licence from the Malta Gaming Authority was suspended in October 2022, and then cancelled in October 2023.

It has been reported that alongside other regulatory failings part of the reason for these actions by the Malta Gaming Authority was non-compliance with money laundering and counter terrorist financing.

Luxembourg – CSSF imposes €785,000 fine for sanctions compliance failings

The Luxembourg financial services regulator, the CSSF, has today published a report of an administrative penalty imposed on Fuchs & Associés Finance SA.

The fine was €785,000.

Some of the compliance failings relate to AML and KYC more generally, and some were specific to sanctions. The sanctions-specific failings were:

      • “name screening controls aiming at detecting persons subject to prohibitions and restrictive measures in financial matters had not been carried out for all clients of the trading desk, as their names were not
        included in the databases used to feed the name screening systems”;
      • “the name screening tools were updated only once a week, and
        no additional controls were in place, particularly when new European and United Nations lists are issued”; and
      • “the absence of a complete and exhaustive client database”.

European Central Bank set to order two EU banks to reduce Russian business

Reuters has reported that the European Central Bank is gearing up to order that the Italian Bank UniCredit must reduce its Russia-related business.

Reuters has also reported that the ECB is to similarly order Austria’s Raiffeisen bank to reduce its Russian lending by 65% and to reduce its involvement in Russia-related payments.

The ECB did not comment on either story.

The ECB has the power to fine non-compliance with such orders.

UK – Charity Commission investigates sanctioned person’s fundraising

The UK’s Charity Commission has issued a press release stating that it had launched a statutory investigation into the activities of Aozma Sultana who is designated under the UK’s terrorism sanctions.

The Charity Commission has confirmed that Aozma Sultana, by virtue of being a designated person, and so subject to an asset freeze, has been removed from any trustee or senior management role in the charity Gaza Now.

The Commission is also investigating the role of two companies, Aakhirah Limited and Al-Qureshi Executives is possible misappropriation of funds by the charity.

This is not the first action taken by the Charity Commission in relation to sanctioned trustee. In December 2023, it issued a press release in relation to action taken against Dr Viatcheslav Kantor who is designated under the UK’s Russian sanctions.

Cyprus – company raided as part of sanctions investigation

Last week the compliance and oversight department of the Cyprus Bar Association raided the premises of the company Finsol controlled by a Greek national regulated by the CBA.

The raid is part of a wider investigation which includes the Cypriot Anti-Money Laundering Authority and Cyprus police.

While the investigation includes allegations unrelated to sanctions, part of the investigation, further to our earlier post, includes allegation of back-dated asset transfers in relation to the company Santinomo Limited, allegedly in an attempt to avoid the impact of a new designation.

United Kingdom – joint sanctions investigation with US into $20 billion crypto transactions

It is being reported that the UK and the US are undertaking a joint investigation into $20 billion in crypto currency transactions said to be in breach of Russian sanctions.

The payments under scrutiny flowed through the Moscow-based Garantex crypto exchange, utilizing the dollar-pegged stablecoin Tether.

The original story was published by Bloomberg, behind a paywall.

It is also being reported that the National Crime Agency and HM Treasury have provided no comment in relation to the investigation.

France – investigation into bank’s Sudan transactions

It is being reported today that BNP Paribas remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Paris Prosecutor’s office in relation to allegations of complicity in crimes against humanity, torture and genocide arising from the financial services it provided to the government of Sudan between 2002 and 2008.

BNP’s Swiss subsidiary is also the subject of the investigation.

BNP Paribas has previously pled guilty to US sanctions charges, and the Swiss regulator FINMA has previously punished BNP Paribas Suisse.

While the relevant limitation period for sanctions offences in France has expired, the case is a reminder that same sanctions breaches can potentially give rise to liability for other offences.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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