UK Gambling Commission spanks Rank Group over anti-money laundering lapses

uk-gambling-commission-rank-money-launderingUK gaming operator Rank Group has been forced to ante up £950k in penalties for anti-money laundering (AML) lapses at its land-based and online businesses.

On Monday, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) posted a summary of its investigation into two cases of shenanigans at Rank operations; one involving a Grosvenor Casinos customer and the other involving a different customer at Rank Digital’s site.

The Grosvenor case involved a high roller named Da Feng Ding, who was recently sentenced to four years in prison on money laundering charges. The UKGC claimed that Ding was likely the “most commercially valuable customer” at one Grosvenor casino between 2008 and 2011, despite having no obvious source of legitimate income.

The UKGC found that Grosvenor had “reasonable grounds and numerous opportunities” to suspect Ding’s money was dirty yet “these opportunities were, on the whole, not taken.” Ding had also “exceeded the trigger points for interaction” under Grosvenor’s responsible gambling policies, yet there are no records of any such interactions taking place.

In the second case, an unidentified female customer of Mecca Bingo recently pled guilty to defrauding her employers of a six-figure sum. She had been a Rank Digital customer from Nov. 2011 until her arrest last December. Early on, her online deposits had been modest, but in May 2012, her monthly deposits increased to £5k and “remained above, and on many occasions, significantly above” that level until her 2014 arrest.

As a result of her deposits, Rank identified the woman as a commercially valuable customer, which led them to take her on a trip to Vegas in Oct. 2013 and on a cruise just one month before her arrest. Throughout, Rank neglected to ascertain the source of the woman’s income and didn’t even identify that this was an issue until July 2014.

Rank agreed to the £950k settlement to prevent a full investigation and to avoid a formal review of its UKGC license. Rank has also agreed to undergo a third-party audit of its new AML arrangements.

The UKGC has formally reminded all gambling companies to brush up on their AML responsibilities, which include identifying the source of a customer’s wealth and continuing to ask such questions regarding established customers.

The UKGC also asked companies to ask themselves whether their primary reason for submitting suspicious transaction info to law enforcement was because “it provides ‘cover’ to continue with a business relationship.” Companies were similarly cautioned that they had to be watchful that they weren’t committing the crime of “tipping off” customers that their gambling spending could be subject to a police investigation.

In October 2013, the UKGC publicly shamed bookmakers Coral and casino operator Aspers for their role in allowing a convicted drug dealer to launder over £1m in illicit funds through their operations. The companies were dinged a combined £127k in penalties and costs.