Barclays Bank pays $298 million for sanctions violations

A brass sign found outside a "Barclays Bank Limited" branch.

Barclays Bank allegedly poured money into banks in countries that violated U.S. sanctions, claim American federal prosecutors. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Pete Barr-Watson/Flickr)

The United States holds major sway on the world stage. The nation’s influence undoubtedly extends into the sphere of international finance, where it has thrown its considerable weight into bringing charges against England’s Barclays Bank. The Washington Post reports that federal prosecutors accused Barclays of violating U.S. sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma for more than a decade, from March 1995 to September 2006. Via the U.S. dollar clearing operations at its New York branch, Barclays sent more than $500 million to banks in those U.S. enemy nations. Reuters indicates that Barclays Bank has already agreed to pay $298 million to settle U.S. criminal charges, and hence has admitted to wrongdoing.

Barclays attempted to conceal the transactions, say prosecutors

Barclays documents filed in the U.S. omitted the names of banks in those sanctioned countries. Payments were routed through an internal account in order to further obscure the connection to those countries. Counts against Barclays Bank include violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and trading with the enemy, according to Jennifer Calvery, chief of the U.S. Justice Department’s asset forfeiture and money-laundering division.

U.S. sanctions against Cuba have been in existence since the Kennedy presidential administration, while Libya (1986), Iran (1995), Sudan and Burma (1997) came later.

Barclays has disclosed some of the prohibited transactions

Reuters reports that Barclays Bank has agreed to cooperate by providing all related documents to U.S. government investigators. The company has not done so as yet, at least not completely. The $298 million settlement breaks down into $149 million up front to the U.S. government and another $149 million via a deferred agreement to be distributed at a later time.

Human rights violations and the American way

A brief study of history indicates that Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma have all faced accusations of human rights violations. Barclays Bank should have known better than to try to support U.S. enemies through their branches on U.S. soil, yet Barclays’ infraction is not likely unique among foreign businesses that operate in America. The United States will fight to enforce its right-of-way. As The Decemberists’ song “Sixteen Military Wives” puts it,

Cheer them on to their rivals
Cause America can, and America can’t say no
And America does, if America says it’s so
It’s so!

Sources:

Reuters

Washington Post

Barclays was previously fined £2.45 million ($3.8 million) for “poor reporting systems”

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