Where there is smoke, there is often fire. We have all heard that adage and its usually true. Netherlands based ING disclosed that it is being investigated by both Dutch and American authorities. According to a recently filed SEC disclosure,
“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. ING Groep has also received related information requests from U.S. authorities. ING Groep and ING Bank are cooperating with such ongoing investigations and requests. 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.”
We believe that the banking and financial services firm is being investigated for corrupt practices involving the country of Uzbekistan. Media reports claim that Dutch prosecutors say the probe involves payments by VimpelCom to a company controlled by a Uzbek government official.
Government’s Related Prosecution of VimpelCom
Last year VimpelCom paid $397.6 million to settle American charges brought under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Some of that money allegedly came from or through ING Bank.
US and Dutch anti-money laundering laws (“AML”) require banks to report suspicious transactions. Because banks process tens of millions of transactions each day, they have the best ability to spot suspicious transactions. Under the US Bank Secrecy Act, banks must immediately report these transactions. If they fail to do so, both the bank and the person making the suspicious payment can be held responsible if money laundering laws are broken.
In our experience, banks that play fast and loose with one depositor often do so with others. By now, the Justice Department investigation into payments made by VimpelCom is well underway. ING Bank and ING Groep are cooperating.
We ask ourselves, however, how many other violations are out there? If ING helped folks at VimpelCom launder money or bribe corrupt officials, how many other criminals used accounts at their bank? And did the bank know this was going on?
Bank insiders are probably the best people to answer these questions. Bankers who become whistleblowers and have inside information about money laundering schemes or foreign corruption / bribes may be eligible for substantial whistleblower awards.
ING Bank Previously Paid $619 Million Fine for OFAC Violations
Why do we think that ING may be engaged in assisting money launderers or other wrongdoers? In 2012, ING Bank N.V. paid OFAC (the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control) $619 million to settle claims that it violated sanctions. That was the highest fine ever leveled by OFAC.
According to the Treasury Department,
“Beginning in the 1990s, at the instruction of senior bank management, ING Bank employees in Curacao began omitting references to Cuba in payment messages sent to the United States in order to prevent U.S. financial institutions from identifying and interdicting prohibited transactions. The practice of removing and omitting such information was also used by other branches of ING Bank’s Wholesale Banking Division, including in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, in processing U.S. dollar payments and trade finance transactions through the United States. In addition, ING Bank’s senior management in France authorized, advised in the creation of, and ultimately provided fraudulent endorsement stamps for use by Cuban financial institutions in processing travelers check transactions, which disguised the involvement of Cuban banks in these transactions when they were processed through the United States.”
During the investigation, an internal email surfaced in which a ING Bank employee acknowledged that routing Cuban transactions to avoid Manhattan [and detection] was illegal.
The process of manipulating funds transfer information to conceal the origination of funds is called “stripping.” If that activity is done by a bank like ING, there may be the opportunity to receive a huge whistleblower award for reporting the violation. More on that below.
In announcing the previous 2012 settlement, a Justice Department spokesperson said,
“The fine announced today is the largest ever against a bank in connection with an investigation into U.S. sanctions violations and related offenses and underscores the national security implications of ING Bank’s criminal conduct. For more than a decade, ING Bank helped provide state sponsors of terror and other sanctioned entities with access to the U.S. financial system, allowing them to move billions of dollars through U.S. banks for illicit purchases and other activities,”
FIRREA – Whistleblower Law for Bank Fraud and Corruption
FIRREA (short for the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act) was passed in 1989. It was congress’ response to the savings and loan scandals of the 80’s. Today it has become the favorite tool of prosecutors for many different types of banking misconduct.
The Justice Department likes the law because it has a long statute of limitations (time to sue) and low burden of proof. Whistleblowers like the law because it pays awards of up to $1.6 million. (Maximum whistleblower awards are common.)
FCPA – Whistleblower Law for Bribery of Foreign Officials
The FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) prohibits companies from paying, receiving or soliciting bribes to foreign government officials. Like FIRREA, that law also pays whistleblower awards. Unlike FIRREA, however, FCPA awards are not capped.
Call for ING Bank Whistleblowers
We are interested in speaking with financial professionals and employees working with or at ING Bank or ING related companies. Although it may be too late to collect an award related to the VimpelCom investigation, we believe there are other incidents worthy on investigation. If money laundering or foreign corrupt practices are involved, significant whistleblower awards may be possible.
For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries are kept confidential and protected by the attorney – client privilege. There is no requirement to be an American citizen to collect an award.
MahanyLaw – America’s Financial Fraud and Whistleblower Lawyers