Barclays agrees to pay 300-million-dollar US sanctions fine

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The British bank Barclays has agreed to pay almost 300 million dollars in fines for violating US sanctions on countries including Cuba, Iran and Sudan, the US Justice Department said Wednesday.

"The violations relate to transactions Barclays illegally conducted on behalf of customers from Cuba, Iran, Sudan and other countries sanctioned in programs administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)," the Justice Department said in a statement.

And a top US justice official issued a harsh reprimand.

"Banks like Barclays will not be permitted to disregard sanctions put in place by the US government," warned Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

"Not just once, but numerous times over more than a decade, Barclays stripped vital information out of payment messages that would have alerted US financial institutions about the true origins of the funds," he said.

"This serious conduct has now resulted in a serious sanction -- forfeiture of 298 million dollars, a public admission of its illegal acts, and the implementation of stringent compliance measures," Breuer said.

OFAC's chief meanwhile said Barclays' evasion of US sanctions was organized and long-term.

"Barclays implemented practices designed to evade US sanctions for the benefit of sanctioned countries and persons," said OFAC Director Adam Szubin.

"The substantial economic benefit to sanctioned parties and the systemic nature of the apparent violations could have resulted in a much more onerous OFAC fine had Barclays not voluntarily self-disclosed and had it not cooperated with OFAC throughout the investigation," he said.

"This is the first settlement of this magnitude where OFAC determined that all of the apparent violations were voluntarily self-disclosed by the bank," Szubin said of the hefty fine total.

© 2010 AFP

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