International money transfer company Wise will pay a $360,000 penalty for failing to abide by Abu Dhabi’s anti-money laundering (AML) rules over a two-year period, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of Abu Dhabi Global Market announced.
Wise cooperated fully with the FSRA and addressed the deficiencies cited by the authority, according to an Aug. 25 final notice. The FSRA found no evidence of actual money laundering, the authority said in a press release Tuesday.
Wise, based in London, established itself in the Abu Dhabi Global Market in May 2019 as a provider of cross-border payment services to individuals and businesses. To fulfill its due diligence obligations for high-risk customers, Wise was required to identify and verify the source of funds; source of wealth; and where applicable, all beneficial owners, per the notice.
In September 2021, the FSRA began a review of Wise and concluded from July 2019 to September 2021, the company failed to create and maintain AML systems required by the FSRA. The review examined Wise’s systems, controls, policies, and procedures regarding AML and included interviews with management and staff and inspections of documents, according to the notice.
Specifically, Wise failed to require employees to get the approval of senior management before starting a business relationship with customers considered at high risk for money laundering, per the order. It also failed to query high-risk customers about the source of their funds and their wealth, the authority said. Wise employees did not consider customers’ payment volumes when assessing risk, nor did they routinely determine customers’ nationalities as part of customer risk assessments, the authority noted.
Wise failed to appropriately screen and assess about 1,532 customers who were high risk, according to the decision.
“The FSRA is committed to ensuring that all regulated entities maintain high standards to address money laundering risks and, where appropriate, the FSRA will take strong action to ensure firms comply fully with the anti-money laundering requirements” in Abu Dhabi, said Emmanuel Givanakis, chief executive officer of the FSRA, in the press release.
Wise did not respond to a request for comment.