U.S. authorities are investigating a leading Dutch bank for alleged dealings with countries under trade sanctions, such as Cuba and Iran, that could draw a fine of "several hundred million" dollars, according to news reports.
Other European banks have paid at least $635 million over the past decade for transactions with Cuba that violate U.S. embargo or counter-terrorism laws. Cuba, Iran, Syria and Sudan are on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The U.S. inquiry targets ING Bank, part of the Dutch financial services giant ING Groep, the Reuters news agency quoted an ING spokesman as saying on Wednesday.
“We don’t know how the investigations in the U.S. will pan out and cannot estimate what the fines, if any, will be. Fines could be significant. We are cooperating fully with U.S. authorities,” the spokesman was quoted as saying.
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He spoke after the Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad reported that ING Bank could be fined “several hundred million” Euros , or dollars for transactions with countries under U.S. sanctions “like Cuba and Iran.”
ING acknowledged in March that it could face fines as a result of its ongoing “discussions” with U.S. officials. It did not explain the talks but said they were with the U.S. Department of Justice, federal prosecutors in New York and the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, which enforces U.S. economic sanctions.
OFAC in 2006 declared Netherlands Caribbean Bank — owned jointly by ING and the Cuban government — to be in violation of U.S. sanctions. ING shut down the joint venture the following year.
U.S. Treasury Department spokeswoman Marti Adams said the department does not comment on possible investigations. Spokespersons for the Justice Department and ING in Holland could not be reached for comment.
Cuba has been under the U.S. trade embargo since 1962. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, tougher U.S. measures on terrorism financing began hitting foreign banks that operate in Cuba as well as the United States — and are therefore subject to U.S. laws.
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