LONDON (AFP) - Several British banks allegedly processed nearly US$740 million (S$1.03 billion) in a multi-billion dollar Russian money-laundering scam, The Guardian newspaper reported on Monday (March 20).
According to documents obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, at least US$20 billion was moved out of Russia between 2010 and 2014 in a vast criminal operation called "The Global Laundromat".
The scam involved over 500 people including oligarchs and Russian criminals with links to the government and the spy agency, KGB.
Over that period, British banks including HSBC, the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Barclays and Coutts reportedly handled over 1,900 transactions - out of 70,000 - worth nearly US$740 million.
A further 373 operations are believed to have gone through US banks, for a total amount of US$63 million.
"Barclays complies with the rules and regulations in all the jurisdictions in which it operates and has systems and controls in place to mitigate the risk of the bank being used to facilitate financial crime," a spokesman for the bank said.
HSBC responded to the allegations saying: "The bank has systems and processes in place to identify suspicious activity and report it to the appropriate government authorities.
"This case highlights the need for greater information sharing between the public and private sectors, each of whom holds important information the other does not."
RBS said they were "committed to combating financial crime and money laundering in line with our regulations and have controls and safeguards in place to identify, assess, monitor and mitigate these risks."
According to The Guardian, while all major British banks will face questions over why they did not raise the alarm on suspicious money transfers, they only processed money that had already been laundered.
The newspaper reported however that American banks, including CitiBank and Bank of America, are the only ones that raise money-laundering concerns.