LONDON — British bank NatWest faces a potentially hefty fine after admitting Thursday to three charges relating to anti-money laundering failures.
The case, which was heard at Westminster Magistrates' Court, related to 365 million pounds ($495 million) deposited into the account of century-old jeweler Fowler Oldfield between 2012 and 2016. Fowler Oldfield was based in the north England city of Bradford, before it was shut down following a police raid in 2016.
The Financial Conduct Authority brought the case, the first time the regulator has pushed through a criminal prosecution under money laundering regulations introduced in 2007. No individuals were charged as part of the proceedings.
The FCA's prosecutor, Clare Montgomery, told the magistrates court that when Fowler Oldfield was taken on as a client by NatWest, its predicted turnover was said to be an annual 15 million pounds. However, it deposited 365 million pounds over the space of almost five years. She said that at its height, Fowler Oldfield deposited up to 1.8 million pounds a day.
NatWest, which remains majority-owned by the British government after it was bailed out at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008 under its then name of the Royal Bank of Scotland, apologized for its failures but insisted it was putting measures in place to avoid a repeat.
"We deeply regret that NatWest failed to adequately monitor and therefore prevent money laundering by one of our customers between 2012 and 2016," said chief executive Alison Rose.
She said that in the years since the case came to light, the bank has invested "significant resources" to bolster its financial crimefighting.
Chief magistrate Paul Goldspring said the figures involved were too large to be dealt with by the magistrate court, and sentencing will take place at Southwark Crown Court on or before Dec. 8.