Pakistan's Habib Bank to pay $225m NY fine

US ousts Pak's biggest bank over terror link concerns

The New York Department of Financial Services (DFS) said on Thursday it had fined Habib Bank and its New York branch $225 million for failures to comply with laws and regulations created to combat illicit money transactions. He advised Islamabad that "It's time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to fight terror".

Earlier, Habib Bank Ltd, facing a possible $630 million fine over compliance failures by its NY branch, admitted mistakes but denied any wrongdoing and said the penalty sought by USA regulators was disproportionate.

"Formal steps for the voluntary closure of HBL New York branch are underway" she mentioned in the letter addressed to General manager Pakistan Stock Exchange. The regulator has now ordered Habib Bank to pay $225 million (around Rs 1,400 crore) and surrender its license to operate in the state, Bloomberg reported. The regulators had, in 2006, ordered to tighten its oversight of potentially illegal transactions. But bank had failed to comply with the instructions.

The review found that Habib had facilitated billions of dollars of transactions with a Saudi private bank, Al Rajhi Bank, which is believed to be linked to al Qaeda. Habib has also failed to do enough that the funds were not laundered or used for terrorism.

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The regulators' agency said Habib allowed almost 13,000 transactions which were not screened properly.

"It bears mentioning that the said branch has been operational since 1978 and the settlement follows a notice by United States financial department, Department of Financial Services, seeking to impose a penalty worth US$629,625,000", last month.

Granted the request of a customer to cancel an instruction to send funds through the New York Branch to a person who was blocked from using the USA financial system, so that the instruction could be resent by intentionally omitting the prohibited party's name. "The bank has repeatedly been given more than sufficient opportunity to correct its glaring deficiencies, yet it has failed to do so", read the statement.

HBL had become the target of an enforcement action by DFS for 53 separate violations allegedly committed between 2007 and 2017. The DFS press release suggests that all foreign transactions through the bank will be examined thoroughly. Not only this, the bank improperly used a "good guy" list to rubber stamp transactions worth at least United States dollars 250 million in transactions, including those by an identified terrorist and an global arms dealer, AFP reported regulators as saying.

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