Page last updated at 16:28 GMT, Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Lib Dem calls for more bank money-laundering prosecutions

A Liberal Democrat peer has called for more British banks to be prosecuted for money-laundering and other crimes.

Baroness Williams told peers that in 2011 the amount of fines paid to the US regulatory authority from British banks alone was £6.4bn, compared to fines paid by the same banks to the Financial Services Authority (FSA) which totalled £140m.

The former Liberal Democrat leader in the Lords said the fines were for money-laundering, fixing the Libor rate and breaking the sanction regimes against Iran and other countries.

Lady Williams made her remarks during oral questions in the Lords on 18 December 2012.

She warned peers: "Unless we do prosecute major banks who commit crimes of this kind we will find ourselves with a City that no longer has the traditional reputation for integrity and fair-dealing."

Commercial Secretary to the Treasury Lord Sassoon agreed with the figures quoted but said the fines in the US were often larger for the same offences.

Lord Sassoon said the FSA had been "leveraging larger fines in recent years" but warned against prosecuting banks themselves rather than individuals.

"It could have the consequence of putting the future of that bank into jeopardy.

"There are considerations that may arise in extreme cases about the stability of the system if a major bank was closed down," he said.

Shadow treasury minister Lord Eatwell called on the FSA to take specific action against the chief executive of HSBC, after the bank recently agreed to paid $1.9bn to US authorities as part of a money-laundering settlement.

Lord Sassoon said any decision to prosecute was down to the Financial Services Authority, but welcomed a number of measures the regulator has put in place at the bank to prevent money-laundering happening in the future.

Peers also asked questions on the future of the National Lottery, discussions with Algeria regarding the situation in Mali, and priorities of the humanitarian aid programmes of the UK and the EU in relation to Syria.

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