Dutch bank ING is to be probed by criminal investigators over allegations of corruption and money laundering.
The lender could be hit with substantial fines if it is found to have paid bribes to the daughter of the former President of Uzbekistan.
A spokesperson for the Dutch financial crimes prosecutor said ING is suspected of failing to report irregular transactions and will be investigated as part of the same probe that saw VimpelCom – a telecoms firm also based in the Netherlands – slapped with a $795 million (€737 million) penalty for its role in the case.
The bank buried news of the investigation on page 232 of its annual report, and has so far refused to reveal any further information about the charges, except to say it has also received requests for information relating to the probe from authorities in the US.
“ING Bank is the subject of criminal investigations by Dutch authorities regarding various requirements related to the on-boarding of clients, money laundering, and corrupt practices,” the bank said in a statement.
Raymond Vermeulen, a spokesman for the bank, yesterday said: “Given that the matter is under investigation, we cannot comment further other than that we are cooperating with the investigations.”
Vermeulen said that although it was impossible to predict the outcome of the probe, the company could face having to pay a very large fine.
Prosecutors in the US allege that ING was involved in the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars to shell companies controlled by the daughter of the late Uzbek President Islam Karimov. According to US court documents, kickbacks totalling $184 million were paid to the firms by the bank.
“It is currently not feasible to determine how the ongoing investigations and requests may be resolved or the timing of any such resolution, nor to estimate reliably the possible timing, scope or amounts of any resulting fines, penalties and/or other outcome, which could be significant,” the bank said.
Back in June 2012, ING agreed to pay the US Department of Justice and the New York County District Attorney’s Office $619 million to settle allegations it had beached sanctions against a number of countries, including Iran and Cuba. At the time, this was the largest ever penalty levied for sanctions violations.
Prosecutors said the bank had actively destroyed payment data that would have proved it had provided financial services to sanctioned entities, and had advised sanctioned countries on how to surreptitiously gain access to the US banking system without being detected.
News of the Dutch probe into the bank’s activities comes days after the Guardian newspaper revealed that British financial institutions had helped Russian criminals launder hundreds of millions of dollars as part of an alleged international scam.