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Pakistan's Largest Bank Ordered to Close its US Branch for Compliance Failures

Pakistan's Largest Bank Ordered to Close its US Branch for Compliance Failures

Banking regulators in the United States have ordered Pakistan's Habib Bank to down the shutters at its NY office over concerns of possible terror funding and money laundering.

The order came after Habib Bank repeatedly failed to pay heed to concerns over possible terrorist financing and money laundering, officials were quoted as saying in an AFP report. The Department of Financial Services (DFS), which ordered the closure of Habib Bank, said the first time it has ordered a bank to shut down in the US.

Habib Bank, which has operated in the U.S. since 1978, was ordered to tighten its oversight of potentially illegal transactions in 2006 but failed to comply.

According to report, Habib Bank neglected compliance concerns and red flags by authorities on transactions that allegedly promoted terrorism, money laundering or other illicit ends, ny banking officials said. The DFS also slapped a $225 million penalty on the bank.

The negotiations were failed with the United States regulators regarding the issue as the bank doesn't find any logic in penalising the branch 2006 onward, he added. In a legal filing, DFS has alleged that the bank has failed to work according to the rules in anti money laundering cases.

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According to the report, Habib Bank had allowed 13,000 transactions that were not sufficiently screened to ensure they did not involve sanctioned countries, the agency said. In 2015, the bank was asked to hire an independent consultant to review its dollar-clearing activities, the regulator said.

"DFS will not tolerate inadequate risk and compliance functions that open the door to the financing of terrorist activities that pose a grave threat to the people of this State and the financial system as a whole", Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo said. According to regulators, the bank has incorrectly approved transfers of $ 25 million, including terrorists and worldwide arms dealers.

The DFS, which has pursued several aggressive enforcement actions against foreign banks, had said HBL's compliance systems were "dangerously weak" and "serious and persistent failings" at its NY unit appeared to affect the entire enterprise.

Earlier in a letter to Pakistan Stock Exchange in August, Habib Bank's company secretary Nausheen Ahmad had termed the United States dollars 629.6 million proposed fine as "outrageous" and "capricious".

The Bank in a statement said, "Despite HBL's honest and extensive remediation measures, DFS is still not appreciating or recognising the significant progress that HBL has made at its branch in NY".


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