Commerzbank to pay $1.45 billion fine for breaking US sanctions

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Germany’s Commerzbank has admitted illegal conduct and agreed to settle criminal charges in the United States by paying $1.45 billion.

The bank had been accused of defying sanctions by concealing transactions with Iran and Sudan, as well as helping Olympus, the camera company, to commit major accounting fraud.

The charges relate to Commerzbank’s activities between 2002 and 2008. During this time the bank, which is the second largest in Germany, systematically processed the outlawed transactions, ignoring warnings from auditors that they should alert the US authorities.

It then concealed information relating to 60,000 transactions, with a value of $253 billion, involving Iran and Sudan.

The bank also defied the US Bank Secrecy Act by conspiring with Olympus to hide hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, breaking laws to prevent money laundering.

“Commerzbank committed these crimes, even though managers inside the bank raised red flags about its sanctions-violating practices,” said assistant attorney general Leslie Caldwell.

“Financial institutions must heed this message: banks that operate in the United States must comply with our laws, and banks that ignore the warnings of those charged with compliance will pay a very steep price.”

“We take these violations very seriously and deeply regret the actions that led to these announcements,” said CEO Martin Blessing.

“We have made, and will continue to make, changes to our systems, training and personnel to address the deficiencies identified by US and New York authorities.”

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