Access Bank No Longer Buying Kenya’s Sidian Bank

Access Bank No Longer Buying Kenya’s Sidian Bank

By Adedapo Adesanya

Guaranty Trust Bank UK (GTBank UK) Limited said it had reached a settlement with the country’s banking watchdog, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), over the £7,671,800 sanction for serious weaknesses in its anti-money laundering (AML) systems and controls between October 2014 and July 2019.

On Tuesday, in a statement seen by Business Post, FCA said that during the relevant period, the lender failed to undertake adequate customer risk assessments, often not assessing or documenting the money laundering risks posed by its customers.

It also accused the bank of failing to monitor customer transactions and business relationships to the required standard, noting that these weaknesses were repeatedly highlighted to GTBank UK by internal and external sources, including the FCA, but despite this, the company did not take appropriate action to fix them.

“GTBank should have acted quickly to put in place adequate AML controls following its fine in 2013, but it failed to do so.

“GTBank did not develop a plan that was capable of addressing its AML weaknesses, exposing it and the broader market to financial crime risks for a prolonged period,” the Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, Mr Mark Steward, said.

On Thursday, GTBank, in a statement made available to Business Post, admitted that it erred, accepting findings in relation to historical AML controls in its operations in the period under review, noting that necessary steps have been taken to address and resolve the identified gaps.

The bank said it has agreed to pay the fine, which has been calculated by reference to a proportion of the revenues of GTBank UK over the relevant period and includes a 30 per cent discount for early settlement.

“As a responsible financial services institution that is committed to best practices, GTBank UK takes its AML obligations extremely seriously.

“We note with sincere regret the FCA’s findings regarding AML control gaps in our operations in the past, and we are very sorry for this,” the Managing Director of GTBank UK, Mr Gbenga Alade, was quoted as saying in the statement.

“We would like to assure all our stakeholders and the general public that necessary steps have been taken to address and resolve the identified gaps,” he assured.

Mr Alade stated further that, “Whilst there was no direct customer impairment arising from the period under review [and the FCA’s findings do not include any instances of suspected money laundering], we have since reinforced our AML control framework and implemented changes in our AML processes in line with best practice with a view to ensuring that the highest standards are maintained in our operations.”

The financial institution said it was fully committed to the fight against all forms of financial crime, promising to continue to meet all applicable financial crime regulations and legislation globally.

“Our AML policies and controls, together with our overall risk management strategy, are regularly reviewed and revised to ensure that they remain relevant and current in line with the evolving regulatory requirements,” it stated.

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