While we frequently highlight the ongoing attempts to punish state sponsors of terrorism through international sanctions, it is important to remember that sanctions by themselves are useless unless they are actually enforced. Underscoring this point is the news this week that Barclays would pay $298 million to settle criminal charges that it had violated economic sanctions.
On Monday, federal prosecutors charged Barclays Bank in a two-count information alleging the financial institution violated economic sanctions in dealings with countries that include Iran, Cuba, and Libya. According to the Department of Justice:
"From the mid 1990s through September 2006, Barclays violated both U.S. and New York State criminal laws by knowingly and willfully moving or permitting to be moved hundreds of millions of dollars through the U.S. financial system on behalf of banks from Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan, and Burma."
Prosecutors alleged that Barclays hid payments by removing identifying information that would implicate sanctioned countries, and routing payments through internal Barclay's accounts to hide connections to sanctioned countries, among other methods.
In 2006, Barclays voluntarily disclosed to the government four transactions that violated U.S. sanctions. Following an intensive investigation and the public charges, the government and the London-based bank has agreed to a settlement of $298 million.
In the past, financial institutions have been used, knowingly and unwittingly, by terrorist groups to funnel money to fund their operations. Consequently, banks have been in the front lines in the financial war on terror. The actions taken against Barclays will ensure that financial institutions continue to cooperate as the international community works towards cutting off the flow of funds to terrorists and the nations that support them.