Tuesday, 26 September, 2017

Relief as Habib Bank episode ends

New York government fines Pakistan’s Habib Bank Rs 1,436 crore to shut down its US branch Akhtar Soomro Reuters
Kelvin Reese | 10 September, 2017, 14:29

The New York state government on Thursday said Pakistan's Habib Bank had agreed to pay $225 million (Rs 1,436 crore) in settlement for infringing laws created to combat illicit transfers of money, Reuters reported.

The worst case scenario, according to a report from Arif Habib Ltd, is that the bank will pay no dividend in the next 12 months.

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) said in a statement that the Habib Bank had consistently failed to correct its "glaring deficiencies", and that the bank's misconduct will "no longer occur on U.S. soil". This was the only branch of Habib Bank in America.

According to AFP reports which quoted NY banking officials, Pakistan's largest private bank HBL neglected to watch for compliance problems and red flags on transactions that potentially could have promoted terrorism, money laundering or other illicit ends.

The Department of Financial Services, which regulates foreign banks, also slapped a $225 million fine on the bank, although that is much smaller than the $629.6 million penalty initially proposed.

"It bears mentioning that the said branch has been operational since 1978 and the settlement follows a notice by United States financial department, Department of Financial Services, seeking to impose a penalty worth US$629,625,000", last month. In a legal filing, DFS has alleged that the bank has failed to work according to the rules in anti money laundering cases. After being suspected of some potential illegal transactions in 2006, the bank was instructed to be strict on such transactions, but the bank failed to do so.

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The regulators' agency said Habib allowed almost 13,000 transactions which were not screened properly.

"The bank has repeatedly been given more than sufficient opportunity to correct its glaring deficiencies, yet it has failed to do so", Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo said in the statement.

It also showed that the bank used a "good guy" list - a list of customers regarded low risk - to rubber stamp at least US$250 million in transactions. DFS said the banks will have to surrender its license. DFS said that this opens the way to financing activities and threatens the financial system as well as the American people.

The enforcement action was brought following a 2016 review during which the DFS said it found "weaknesses in the bank's risk management and compliance".

According to a report, in terms of size, the penalty is nearly 30 per cent of bank's assets in the USA and the Middle East.

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