Crypto exchanges represent just a fraction of AML offences

October 09, 2018
Chris Wheal

While concerns continue to grow about the use of cryptocurrencies in money laundering and funding criminal activities, a new report published on Tuesday about the culpability of European banks puts crypto exchanges well and truly in the shade.

Money laundering on crypto exchanges represents just a fraction of that through Europe’s banks

FortyTwoData, an independent research company says that money laundering is a pan-European problem, with 90% of the continent’s biggest banks having been sanctioned for such offences within the past decade – many of them within the past few years.

Biggest banks are offenders

Among the most recent instances, Denmark’s Danske Bank faces a criminal investigation by US authorities over a €200bn money-laundering scandal involving its Estonian branch, while Dutch bank ING was fined €775m in September for failing to stop a number of companies from laundering money over a six-year period.

All of Europe’s 10 biggest banks are known to have fallen foul of anti-money laundering (AML) regulations: HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds from the UK, France’s BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale and Groupe BPCE, Germany’s Deutsche Bank, Spain’s Santander and ING.

In Britain alone, the report found, all five major banks have been fined and earlier this year Donald Troon at the National Crime Agency said in a Treasury meeting that a staggering £150bn was estimated to be laundered in the UK each year – most of it through banks.

Crypto exchanges

Convert this £150bn into dollars and the figure is nearly $196bn – only a comparative shade shy of the $220bn total market capitalisation of the whole cryptocurrency market.

Regulators have taken AML rules very seriously for cryptocurrency exchanges and a report by the Wall Street Journal last week claimed that more than 46 digital exchanges have been used to launder over $88m over the past two years.

Solutions

Commenting on Europe’s banks Julian Dixon, chief executive of FortyTwoData, said: “The fact that almost all of Europe’s 20 biggest banks are known to have failed to comply with AML regulations is a troubling finding.

“These days, there are effective solutions to be found. Technology has reached a level where it can vastly improve the efficiency of suspicious activity detection and all major banks have a responsibility to embrace 21st Century solutions to this problem, rather than continuing with outdated legacy systems.”

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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