Standard Chartered hopeful to retain New York licence

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Standard Chartered said it hopes to retain its New York banking licence over charges it violated US sanctions against Iran in an interview published Tuesday. The British lender, with a strong presence in Asia, the Middle East and Africa, vehemently denied US allegations it hid $250 billion in transactions with Iranian banks for almost a decade.

“We hope we do not lose our licence, we don’t believe we should lose our licence and we don’t believe we will,” Standard Chartered’s chief executive Peter Sands told India’s Business Standard newspaper in an emailed interview.

Many financial analysts believe Washington’s decision to strip Standard Chartered of its New York licence would effectively cut the British lender’s direct access to the US banking market.

“We do not know how this situation will be resolved or when but, as you would expect, we are planning for all possible outcomes,” Sands added.

The interview came a day after Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported Sands had flown to New York in a last-ditch bid to secure a settlement and avoid a public showdown with US regulators over Iranian money laundering charges.

New York regulators have set Wednesday for a hearing at which the bank must persuade them to allow it to keep its licence to operate in the state.

The New York State Department of Financial Services (DFS) last week threatened to strip Standard Chartered of its state banking license, saying the British bank hid $250 billion in transactions tied to Iran, in violation of US law.

The transactions mainly involved US dollar transfers for state-owned Iranian banks, including the central bank, that fell under US controls aimed at undermining Tehran’s alleged nuclear weapons programme.

Sands said the bank realised when it undertook a review of its “historical compliance” with US sanctions between 2001 and 2007 that “relatively few” transactions” did not comply with US rules.

But “these were good faith mistakes, not malfeasance or an attempt to undermine sanctions”, he told the Business Standard in India, where the bank is planning to step up investment.

“Standard Chartered seeks to comply at all times with the relevant laws,” Sands added.

The accusations of violating US anti-money laundering rules have hammered the bank’s stock market value.

US Senate report revealed last month that a ’pervasively polluted’ culture at HSBC Holdings Plc allowed ‘dodgy clients’ from the world’s most dangerous and secretive corners including Iran, Mexico, the Cayman Islands, Saudi Arabia and Syria, to route shadowy funds.

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