The State of New York fined Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi-UFJ – Japan’s largest bank – 250 million US dollars (24.2 billion yen) on Thursday for putting through transactions for state and private entities in Iran, Sudan, and Myanmar form 2002 to 2007, a period when all three countries were under United States sanctions. New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) said that Mitsubishi-UFJ allowed through their New York branch billions of dollars via banking services and money transfers for entities that included ones listed in the US Treasury’s blacklist.
The DFS revealed that bank employees hid these transactions by “systematically” deleting information from the wire transfer messages – information which could have identified the parties involved and alerted US financial authorities about the said transactions. The DFS estimates that Mitsubishi-UFJ put through around 28,000 illegal transactions in total, with the total amount of money moved in the transactions reaching around 100 billion US dollars – all in violation of US sanctions to the countries at that time. “We have and will continue to take a hard-line in rooting out misconduct at banks that threatens our national security,” said Benjamin Lawsky, the state superintendent of financial services, in a statement. “Whenever and wherever we uncover serious wrongdoing, we will take strong enforcement action to protect our country from money laundering, terrorism, and other dangerous misdeeds,” he added.
At this point, it looks like the Japanese bank in question is ready to cooperate and comply with the DFS. Mitsubishi-UFJ has agreed to the fine, further saying in a statement that it will boost its measures and controls to make sure all the bank’s procedures comply with current US sanctions, thereby preventing future violations. The bank reiterated that it had internally discovered the violations in 2007, cooperating with the authorities since that time, and “voluntarily and promptly ceased the practices.” This is not the first nor the biggest fine the DFS has imposed on illegal transactions to sanctioned nations. Last year, the London-based Standard Chartered Bank was fined 667 million US dollars by New York state authorities for allowing its US branch to be a venue for laundering hundreds of billions of dollars. The clients in question were from Iran, Myanmar, Libya and Sudan, and the transactions were similarly in violation of US sanctions.