Monday, September 13, 2010

Ex-federal agent: Barclays, banks get "wrist slaps" for violating trade sanctions, but individuals should be held responsible

Last month, I wrote how Barclays Bank PLC, has committed, as part of deferred prosecution agreements, "to forfeit $298 million... in connection with violations of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act."

Barclays voluntarily disclosed its long-running violations only eight months before the Atlantic Yards naming rights deal was announced. While the settlement was approved by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, it came after Sullivan a day earlier criticized it as "a sweetheart deal."

Who's responsible?

Today, former federal agent Robert Mazur, takes aim at the deal in a New York Times op-ed headlined Follow the Dirty Money. His point? Individuals should be held responsible.

He writes:
LAST month, a federal district judge approved a deal to allow Barclays, the British bank, to pay a $298 million fine for conducting transactions with Cuba, Iran, Libya, Myanmar and Sudan in violation of United States trade sanctions. Barclays was discovered to have systematically disguised the movement of hundreds of millions of dollars through wire transfers that were stripped of the critical information required by law that would have enabled the world to know that for more than 10 years the bank was moving huge sums of money for enemy governments. Yet all federal prosecutors wanted to settle the problem was a small piece of the action.

When Judge Emmet Sullivan of federal district court in Washington, who ultimately approved the deal with Barclays, asked the obvious question, “Why isn’t the government getting rough with these banks?” the remarkable response was that the government had investigated but couldn’t find anyone responsible.

How preposterous. Banks can commit crimes only through the acts of their employees. Federal law enforcement agencies are simply failing to systematically gather the intelligence they need to effectively monitor the crime.

The Barclays deal was just one in a long line of wrist slaps that big banks have recently received from the United States...

Bankers are escaping prosecution because law enforcement is failing to expose the evidence that some bankers market dirty money. Years after the transactions occur, any effort to prove what was known at the time is practically impossible. The bankers simply say they didn’t know where the money came from. Naturally, prosecutors look for ways to get around trying to prosecute those sorts of cases, and instead make deals.

It should be up to law enforcement agencies to bring prosecutors solid proof of what the bankers knew and said at the time they knowingly handled ill-gotten money. This is not difficult, only time-consuming.

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