Fintech firm Wise fined by Abu Dhabi regulator for breaching money laundering law

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The regulator of Abu Dhabi’s free zone financial center said on Tuesday it had fined the local subsidiary of fintech firm Wise $360,000 for breaching anti-money laundering (AML) requirements.


Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) “found that Wise did not establish and maintain adequate AML systems and controls to ensure full compliance with its AML obligations,” it said in a statement.

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Wise said in response to a Reuters query that it takes its responsibility to protect its customers and prevent money laundering “very seriously”, and that neither the FSRA nor the company had identified instances of money laundering or other financial crimes.

The FSRA also said its review had not found instances of actual money laundering as a result of Wise’s AML systems and control failures.

It said breaches by Wise Nuqud included it failing to identify and verify the source of funds or wealth held by some customers it had identified as high risk before carrying out transactions on their behalf.

Wise, formerly TransferWise, also did not “consider customer nationality as part of its risk-based assessment of its Customers,” along with other breaches, it said.

“Wise did not dispute the FSRA’s findings and agreed to settle at the earliest opportunity, which meant that it qualified for a discount of 20 percent on the financial penalty,” the FSRA said. The fine would have otherwise been $450,000.

Wise said in its statement that it would “continue to invest in maintaining and improving our AML processes to the highest standards in partnership with regulators around the world.”

The regulator said Wise “has taken substantial steps to remediate the issues and deficiencies ... including by conducting a gap analysis of its policies, systems and controls against the Regulator’s AML and Federal AML requirements.”

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