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Standard Chartered settles U.S. money laundering case

A staff member walks inside a priority banking service area of a Standard Chartered bank in Hong Kong in a file photo.

Bobby Yip/Reuters

Standard Chartered PLC agreed to pay $327-million (U.S.) to resolve allegations that it violated U.S. sanctions and other laws, essentially doubling its fine for the conduct and capping months of U.S. legal headaches for the British bank.

The U.S. Justice Department and the New York District Attorney's office on Monday accused the bank of moving millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of customers in Iran, Sudan, Libya and Burma, in violation of sanctions laws.

The agencies both agreed to defer and drop the charges if the bank improves its sanctions compliance and forfeits $227-million.

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Separately, the bank also entered into a $100-million agreement with the U.S. Federal Reserve to resolve allegations that the bank provided "inadequate and incomplete responses" to bank examiners and provided insufficient oversight of its sanctions compliance program.

"The United States expects a minimum standard of behaviour from all financial institutions that enjoy the benefits of the U.S. financial system. Standard Chartered's conduct was flagrant and unacceptable," Justice Department criminal chief Lanny Breuer said in a statement.

"These cases give teeth to sanctions enforcement, send a strong message about the need for transparency in international banking, and ultimately contribute to the fight against money laundering and terror financing," New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance said.

The U.S. Treasury Department also entered into a settlement to resolve allegations that the bank's London and Dubai offices violated U.S. sanctions against the four countries at issue.

Treasury said it levied a $132-million penalty but deemed that satisfied by the bank's payment to DOJ.

The federal-state settlements come several months after the bank agreed to pay $340-million to resolve a related case brought by the New York banking regulator.

In August, the New York Department of Financial Services broke from its fellow regulators and filed a surprise order accusing the bank of hiding some $250-billion worth of transactions with Iran.

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The action on Monday alleges that the bank moved "more than $200-million" through the U.S. financial system, primarily on behalf of Iranian and Sudanese clients.

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