Updated on 15 September with Novum Bank's reply
A Malta-based bank owned by a Dutch billionaire has been fined by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU) for shortcomings in its efforts to detect potential money laundering.
Novum Bank, owned by Dutch entrepreneur Marcel Boekhoorn, was hit with an €89,000 fine and ordered to tighten up its checks on clients.
An inspection by the FIAU, carried out in 2019, found that in one instance, Novum Bank failed to understand the rationale behind a €16 million transfer by one of its clients.
The anti-money laundering body also identified transactions ranging from €400,000 to €2 million which had not been adequately scrutinised by the bank.
According to the FIAU, the bank argued that because of the limited volume of transactions which are conducted by corporate customers, it had sufficient knowledge for every single transaction which would be carried out.
The bank further said that these transactions are scrutinised manually by bank employees, increasing the level of monitoring and understanding of the corporate customer transactions.
However, the FIAU argued that independently of the volume of transactions processed, it is always important to monitor and understand the rationale behind transactions, even those backed by documented loan agreements.
This is done to ensure that there is a business, economic and lawful purpose for such transactions, the FIAU said.
In 2018, Dutch regulators fined the bank €1.75 million for alleged licensing issues in connection with Novum’s operations in Holland. The bank had said it “strongly disagrees” with the Dutch regulator’s decision.
A year later, Boekhoorn was accused of financial crimes by prosecutors in Reggio Calabria, in a case unrelated to Novum Bank.
The Malta Gaming Authority greenlit a licence for a gaming company owned by Boekhoorn, despite knowing of the charges he is facing in Italy.
The case centres on allegations that Boekhoorn and his associates used money made through a business partner’s mafia-linked criminal activities to buy an 80 per cent stake in a casino game design company, via his private equity firm Ramphastos Investments.
The charges, which Boekhoorn strongly denies, are unrelated to his Malta-licensed gaming company Habanero Systems.
Internal MGA correspondence shows the licence was issued on condition that Boekhoorn does not take any dividends from Habanero Systems or exercise his voting rights in the company until his name has been cleared.
Novum Bank's reply
In a statement, Novum Bank said the €1.75 million fine by the Dutch regulator was overturned on appeal in April.
The bank said a Netherlands court ruled in favour of the bank, revoking the fine and reimbursing the bank's court fees and ordering the regulator to reimburse a portion of the bank's legal fees in the proceedings.
On the FIAU fine, Novum Bank said it does not "fully agree" with the FIAU's observations, and will be communicating with the FIAU directly in this respect.
Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.Support Us