December 28, 2020

Saudi bank pays $653,347 to settle potential civil liability for apparent Sudan and Syria sanctions violations

The Office of Foreign Assets control of the US Department of the Treasury has entered into a settlement with the National Commercial Bank (NCB) of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, resolving the bank’s potential civil liability for thirteen apparent violations of the Sudanese and Syrian Sanctions Regulations.

According to OFAC, the bank processed thirteen US dollar transactions to or through the United States between November 2011 and August 2014; the transactions totaled nearly $6 million, and either benefited a counterparty in Sudan or Syria, or involved goods moving from or through Sudan or Syria, in apparent violation of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR § 538.205 and section 2(b) of Executive Order 13582.

NCB voluntarily self-disclosed the eight Syria-related apparent violations to OFAC, but did not voluntarily self-disclose the five Sudan-related apparent violations.  In assessing the civil monetary penalty, OFAC deemed as aggravating factors NCB’s status as a large and commercially sophisticated financial institution, and the harm done to the integrity of the US sanctions programs that were in place at the time.  OFAC viewed as mitigating factors the bank’s prior history (no penalties or findings of violations for the five preceding years) and its cooperation with OFAC’s investigation.  Additionally, OFAC determined that the Syria-related apparent violations had largely occurred shortly after the imposition of the relevant sanctions, and NCB had not acted with willful intent or reckless disregard of its US sanctions obligations.  NCB also enhanced its compliance controls by replacing its board of directors, implementing new sanctions screening software and training procedures, subjecting new customers to substantial due diligence, and improving anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing procedures.

The settlement amount of $653,347 reflects these factors, and was hence reduced from the base civil monetary penalty amount applicable to the matter, $1,814,854.

US Dept of the Treasury press release | Enforcement release