The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Thursday imposed “special measure five” against Tanzania-based FBME Bank Ltd, formerly known as the Federal Bank of the Middle East.
Special measure five means U.S. financial institutions are barred from “opening or maintaining correspondent accounts or payable through accounts for or on behalf of FBME.”
FinCEN found FBME to be a primary money laundering concern under the USA PATRIOT Act.
FBME has operated in Cyprus since 1982.
FinCEN said the bank was used “by its customers to facilitate money laundering, terrorist financing, transnational organized crime, fraud, sanctions evasion, and other illicit activity internationally and through the U.S. financial system.”
FBME attracted as customers “high-risk shell companies . . . formed for the sole purpose of holding property or funds and that do not engage in any legitimate business activity,” FinCEN said.
In a statement, FBME said it was shocked by the U.S. announcement. It said the action was based on “unexplained allegations of weak AML controls.”
The bank said “it had no prior notification of this announcement nor has it had the opportunity to comment on or refute the various allegations set out in it.”
In July 2014, FinCEN issued a notice (pdf) that FBME had been found to be a primary money laundering concern and could be subject to a final ban. The agency also held a 60-day public comment period about FBME.
FinCEN director Jennifer Shasky Calvery said Thursday’s action against FBME “demonstrates that the United States will not allow a compromised foreign bank to send dirty funds through the U.S. financial system.”
Banco Delta Asia, a Macau-based bank used by North Korea, and the Commercial Bank of Syria, are also subject to bans under the Patriot Act because of money-laundering concerns.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.