It’s nothing short of a watershed moment in the fight against money-laundering. Today, 9 December 2020, the ruling of The Hague Court of Appeal ruled that the former CEO of ING, Ralph Hamers can be prosecuted for an ING money-laundering scheme (Case No K18 / 220377). In 2018, ING admitted that it had facilitated money-laundering agreed to pay €775 million to settle the case. Some individuals, however, had filed criminal complaints against the then ING CEO Ralph Hamers but the public prosecutors’ office in Amsterdam had rejected the charges and declared them inadmissible. The Hague Court of Appeal has now admitted the charges.
The breaking news has been broadcasted by risk & compliance magazine today. At its core, the Court Order states that bank directors may be prosecuted and charged for money laundering activities of their institutions. Sure, an indictment is not yet a conviction but at least a first step to bring money laundering violations to public courts rather than dealing with them behind closed doors without personal consequences.
Even though Dutch financial crime prosecutors said ING had violated laws on preventing money laundering and financing terrorism “structurally and for years” by not properly checking the beneficial owners of client accounts and by not noticing unusual transactions through them, they have refused to prosecute the then CEO Ralph Hamers.
However, since the board of each company bears the legal responsibility for the actions of its business, the refusal of the prosecution becomes contradictory. In a company the systematic and structurally manifested unlawful actions must be held responsible to the board of directors.
ING took over Payvision from its founder Rudolf Booker in 2017/18. This company was also heavily involved in money laundering during the incriminated period. It is somehow logical that the then ING board of directors did not really see the money laundering activities of Payvision as somehow disturbing. On the contrary, it seems to have fitted perfectly into the ING culture at the time.