FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020 file photo, Ralph Hamers, new CEO of Swiss Bank UBS, gestures during a press conference in Zurich, Switzerland. A Dutch court ruled Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, that Hamers, the former CEO of ING bank, should face a criminal investigation for his role in a money laundering scandal that led to a huge settlement in 2018. (Walter Bieri/Keystone via AP, File)

Dutch court calls for criminal probe into former ING CEO

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch court on Wednesday ordered prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the former CEO of ING bank, Ralph Hamers, for his role in a money laundering scandal that led to a huge settlement in 2018.

ING paid 775 million euros to settle the case, with the country’s financial prosecution service saying that the bank failed for years to adequately implement a law aimed at preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism by not carrying out adequate background checks on clients and not sufficiently investigating suspicious transactions.

Hamers has since left ING and is CEO of Zurich-based bank UBS. He conceded at the time of the 2018 settlement that the bank had failed to do enough to prevent money laundering.

The Hague Appeals Court upheld the settlement in a ruling Wednesday and called on prosecutors to open a case against Hamers.

“The facts are serious, no settlement has been reached with the director himself, nor has he taken public responsibility for his actions,” the court said in a statement. The court said that bank directors should not enjoy impunity if they were in charge when breaches of banking regulations happened.

Hamers could not be reached for comment through UBS. The Swiss bank said in a statement that it had taken note of the Dutch court’s decision and expressed “full confidence” in Ralph Hamers’ ability to lead UBS.

ING said it regrets the decision to prosecute Hamers, saying it “goes against the assessment of the public prosecutors that, based on the investigation, there are no grounds for a case against ING employees or former employees.”

The leader of a foundation that took the case to the appeals court welcomed the decision to investigate Hamers.

“It should not be the case that directors who deliberately act wrongly can ransom themselves at the expense of the shareholders by agreeing to very high fines for only the company and shareholders who are completely innocent,” said Pieter Lakeman of the Company Information Research Foundation.

Mike Corder, The Associated Press