By Ahmad Rafat
On April 15, one of Italy’s biggest lenders UniCredit SpA and two of its subsidiaries settled a two-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Treasury by agreeing to pay $1.3 billion in fines for violating sanctions against Iran and other countries. The Milan-based UniCredit has branches in 105 countries in Europe, the U.S., Asia, and Africa, making it one of Europe’s largest banks by total assets.
The bank’s German unit, UniCredit Bank AG, also pleaded guilty to criminal charges for illegally moving hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iran and other sanctioned countries including Libya, Cuba, Sudan, Myanmar, and Syria.
As part of its settlements with the Federal Reserve and New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), UniCredit has also agreed to retain an independent consultant to monitor its compliance program.
UniCredit’s German unit reportedly helped an Iranian shipping company to circumvent sanctions between 2007 and 2011. Various branches of the bank had transferred nearly half a billion dollars to Iran during the same period.
A spokesman for the bank told Kayhan Life: “The money we had put aside during our negotiations with U.S. investigators in the past two years far exceeds the fine we will ultimately have to pay. Therefore, the financial penalty has not impacted us that much. We have no business ties with an Iranian company.”
A week earlier, the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) fined the British Standard Chartered Bank $1.5 for violating sanctions on Iran. The punitive measure relates to a wide range of investigations by the U.S. and the UK authorities into the bank’s activities since 2014.
London-based Standard Chartered has reportedly set aside $900 million for the settlements, of which $639 million are for breaching U.S. sanctions on Myanmar, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. The bank will also have to pay 102 million pounds to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).
“Authorities are looking into where conduct and control failures permitted clients with Iranian interests to conduct transactions through Standard Chartered Bank after 2007,” the bank said in its half-year report published earlier this year.
In the past few years many banks have been fined for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran including Societe Generale ($1.3 billion), BNP Paribas ($12 million), Credit Agricole Group ($787 million), Credit Suisse ($536 million), J.P. Morgan Chase ($5.3 million), Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ ($315 million), HSBC ($1.9 billion), Commerzbank AG ($1.45 billion), Deutsche Bank AG ($258 million), Royal Bank of Scotland ($100 million) and ING ($619 million).
Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi