Commerzbank AG Admits to Sanctions and Bank Secrecy Violations, Agrees to Forfeit $563 Million and Pay $79 Million Fine
Combined with Payments to Regulators, Commerzbank to Pay $1.45 Billion
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Commerzbank AG, a global financial institution headquartered in Frankfurt, Germany, and its U.S. branch, Commerzbank AG New York Branch (Commerz New York), have agreed to forfeit $563 million, pay a $79 million fine and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department for violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA).
In entering the deferred prosecution agreement, Commerzbank admitted and accepted responsibility for its criminal conduct in violation of IEEPA, and Commerz New York admitted its criminal conduct in violation of the BSA..
“Commerzbank concealed hundreds of millions of dollars in transactions prohibited by U.S. sanctions laws on behalf of Iranian and Sudanese businesses,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell…
“Sanctions laws are designed to protect the national security of the United States and promote our foreign policy interests,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “Commerzbank undermined the integrity of our financial system and threatened our national security by hiding the business they were doing with entities in Iran and Sudan. The bank tried to skirt our laws by hiding its illegal business with Iranian banks from its own employees in the United States. Today’s resolution demonstrates that there will be consequences when global banks try to profit from the benefits of the U.S. financial system without respecting our laws.”
According to admissions contained in the deferred prosecution agreement, from 2002 to 2008, Commerzbank knowingly and willfully moved $263 million through the U.S. financial system on behalf of Iranian and Sudanese entities subject to U.S. economic sanctions. Commerzbank engaged in this criminal conduct using numerous schemes designed to conceal the true nature of the illicit transactions from U.S. regulators…
Specifically, in 2003, Commerzbank designated a group of employees in the Frankfurt back office to review and amend Iranian payments so that the payments would not be stopped by U.S. sanctions filters. In doing so, Commerzbank ensured that Iranian payment messages did not mention the Iranian entity, as transactions may have otherwise been stopped pursuant to the U.S. sanctions. ..
For example, in 2003, when two state-owned Iranian banks wanted to begin routing their U.S. dollar clearing business through Commerzbank, a Commerzbank back office employee emailed other Commerzbank employees directing: “If for whatever reason CB New York inquires why our turnover has increase[d] so dramatically, under no circumstances may anyone mention that there is a connection to the clearing of Iranian banks!!!!!!!!!!!!!.”
Commerzbank admitted that this conduct continued even though its senior management was warned that the bank’s practices for Iranian clients “raised concerns.”