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UK finance pays £227m fines for money laundering failings and keeping dead customer cash

Pedestrians walk past a branch of Santander in Wilmslow, northern England, April 25, 2013.  Santander, the euro zone's largest bank, reported a 26 percent drop in first-quarter net profit as slowing growth in some South American markets added to the gloom at home in Spain.     REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: BUSINESS)
A branch of Santander in Wilmslow, northern England. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble

The UK’s finance watchdog has handed out £227.3m in fines in the past year, as banks faced heavy penalties for keeping dead customers’ cash and failings in tackling money laundering.

The Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) annual report published on Tuesday shows the value of penalties handed out more than tripled in 2018-19.

“We’ve taken action against firms and individuals who break the rules and don’t protect consumer,” said the regulator, which has occasionally come under fire for not taking tougher action to hold firms to account.

The FCA fined the bank Santander £32.8m late last year for failing to return more than £183m in the accounts of dead customers to around 40,500 beneficiaries such as family members. The bank subsequently apologised.

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The FCA said the cash had still not all been transferred, but the programme to do so was “almost complete.”

READ MORE: MPs speechless as review of major government projects leaves out HS2

The regulator also handed out an even greater £102.2m fine to Standard Chartered Bank over breaches of rules designed to stop money laundering.

It was the second largest fine the watchdog had ever imposed over money laundering failings.

The FCA, launched as part of a shakeup of regulation in the aftermath of the financial crisis in 2013, monitors the conduct of around 59,000 financial services and 150,000 individuals in the industry in the UK.

£147.1m of its fines in the last year were against eight firms, and a further eight fines worth £80.2m were against individuals.

READ MORE: Banking job cuts recall ‘dark days of 2008’