August 26, 2021

Bank of China (UK) settles potential civil liability for Sudan transactions

The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury has entered into a $2,329,991 settlement with Bank of China (UK) Limited, a London-based financial institution, to resolve OFAC’s investigation into transactions processed by the bank that implicate the Sudan sanctions program, which was fully terminated in June 2018. 

According to the settlement documents, Bank of China (UK) conducted an internal investigation following a payment processing request by a Sudanese customer.  The bank then reviewed historic transactions, and ultimately identified two customers who had engaged in Sudan-related transactions processed by the bank through the US financial system.  According to OFAC, the bank’s staff did not evaluate and escalate the transactions as was warranted, resulting in the processing of 111 transactions through the US financial system on behalf of persons in Sudan.  The transactions totaled $40,599,184, and were conducted between September 2014 and February 2016, before the Sudan sanctions program was fully terminated, in apparent violation of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR § 538.205. 

In assessing the civil monetary penalty, OFAC took into consideration aggravating factors such as the bank’s reckless disregard for US sanctions requirements, the fact that some bank employees were aware that the transactions related to entities in Sudan, the economic benefit conferred by the bank on a sanctioned country, and the bank’s status as a commercially sophisticated international financial institution.  At the same time, OFAC determined that certain mitigating factors applied, including Bank of China (UK)’s penalty-free history in the five years preceding the apparent violations, the bank’s self-reporting and cooperation with OFAC’s investigation, and remedial measures that have been undertaken by the bank since it identified the suspect transactions.

OFAC press release | Enforcement release