A Dutch court this week ordered a criminal investigation into UBS CEO Ralph Hamers for his role in the ING money laundering scandal that occurred during his tenure as the latter financial institution’s leader.
The Hague Court of Appeal on Wednesday called for the probe. “The facts are serious, no settlement was reached with the director himself, nor has he taken public responsibility for his actions,” the court said in a statement. “The court considers it important that in a public criminal trial the standard is confirmed that directors of a bank do not go unpunished if they have actually led serious prohibited behavior.”
ING in 2018 reached a €775 million settlement with Dutch authorities to resolve the case, in which the bank admitted criminals were able to launder money through its accounts due to lax compliance controls. ING was found to not be properly vetting customers, which allowed hundreds of millions of euros worth of illegal transactions to flow through the bank for years.
The settlement was upheld as part of the court’s ruling Wednesday.
“We welcome the ruling regarding ING but regret the decision to order the prosecution of our former CEO, which goes against the assessment of the public prosecutors that, based on the investigation, there are no grounds for a case against ING employees or former employees,” ING said in a statement. “While these rulings mean there will be no further direct steps in this procedure for ING, we will continue our efforts to enhance the management of compliance risks and embed stronger awareness across the whole organisation.”
Hamers served as ING’s CEO from 2013 through June 2020 before joining UBS just last month. His new employer said in an emailed statement it has taken note of the court’s decision and has “full confidence” in Hamers’ ability to lead amid the investigation, noting assurance Swiss financial market supervisor FINMA provided to Reuters this week that Hamers was deemed “fit and proper” for his role at UBS.