Satabank

Satabank, the bank at the centre of controversy which had its bank licence revoked in 2020, has had a second fine imposed on it by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) reduced on appeal, despite the court’s highlighting of its “arrogance”.

The €327,500 fine was reduced to €68,000, according to the FIAU, which posted the announcement to its website on Tuesday.

The fine was originally imposed on the bank in 2018 for its failure to reply to requests made by the FIAU on time and for handing over incomplete and incorrect information.

Satabank’s failed to reply to the FIAU within the stipulated timeframes on no fewer than 22 occasions between February and November 2016.

In seven cases, the bank did not provide the correct information required by the requests made by the FIAU. In four of these cases, Satabank’s defence that the incorrect information was provided because it was not able to identify the natural/legal person in the FIAU’s request as it did not match the information found on its system was dismissed, with the FIAU noting that the person’s name, surname and ID card number were an exact match.

Similarly, in another case, the FIAU rubbished Satabank’s claim that it had not been able to identify the customer because their surname was inputted as the first name, saying that the bank’s systems should have been able to detect these variations. In this case, even when the FIAU provided the IBAN number, Satabank still failed to supply it with the correct information.

For these incidents, among others, the FIAU had in 2018 imposed a €327,500 fine on the bank.

The court of appeal fully justified the FIAU’s decision, and called out Satabank’s “arrogance” for claiming that the breaches it was fined for were negligible and caused no damage.

The court added that the bank’s defence “also reflects the lack of understanding of its obligations”, and stated that: “Timely execution of the Company’s obligations is imperative in the prevention of money laundering and financing of terrorism.”

Nonetheless, the court determined that the FIAU’s fine was too high, and cut it down to €68,000.

This is the second time a court of appeal has reduced an FIAU fine imposed on Satabank. In December 2020, a €3.5 million fine was slashed to €852,000.

Satabank has been under controllership since 2020, after the Malta Financial Services Authority ordered it to cease all business activity, and was the subject of a joint inspection by the MFSA and FIAU over shortcomings in the bank’s anti-money laundering procedures.

The police have since been investigating what the hundreds of millions in euros which passed through the bank’s payment channels.

All 12,000 of Satabank’s accounts were effectively frozen by the MFSA.

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