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U.S. settles suit alleging bank money laundering

ALBANY, N.Y. – Standard Chartered Bank has agreed to pay $327 million to settle federal and New York charges it laundered money on behalf of four countries that were subject to U.S. economic sanctions from 2001 through 2007.

Federal authorities said the settlement announced Monday was part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department and Manhattan district attorney. The deal covers currency transactions made at the British bank's New York branch for Iranian, Sudanese, Libyan and Burmese entities that were concealed from regulators. The London-based bank also has settled with the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the Federal Reserve.

"For years, Standard Chartered Bank deliberately violated U.S. laws governing transactions involving Sudan, Iran and other countries subject to U.S. sanctions," said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer. "The United States expects a minimum standard of behavior from all financial institutions that enjoy the benefits of the U.S. financial system. Standard Chartered's conduct was flagrant and unacceptable."

Standard Chartered said the investigation found about $133 million processed for the four countries through its New York branch, which handled $139 trillion overall during those years. The bank said it has upgraded compliance procedures and that no further action will be taken by authorities if the bank meets settlement conditions, which include a $327 million cash payment this year.

"The settlements are the product of an extensive internal investigation that led the bank voluntarily to report its findings concerning past sanctions compliance to these U.S. authorities, and nearly three years of intensive cooperation with regulators and prosecutors," Standard Chartered said. "In the more than five years since the events giving rise to today's settlements, the bank has completed a comprehensive review and upgrade of its compliance systems and procedures."

U.S. authorities allege the bank illegally told a customer in a sanctioned country to mask transactions by substituting the London bank's unique code in wire payment messages and deleting data that would have revealed the involvement of sanctioned entities and countries.

The conduct occurred in Standard Chartered business units around the world, primarily in London and Dubai, "with the knowledge and approval of senior corporate managers and the legal and compliance departments," the Justice Department said.

In August, New York's Department of Financial Services announced a $340 million settlement with Standard Chartered to resolve its investigation into whether the British bank schemed with the Iranian government to launder money from 2001 to 2007 through its New York branch.

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