Riggs Bank pleaded guilty to a criminal violation of the Bank Secrecy Act, a U.S. anti-money laundering law, and agreed to pay $16 million for failing to report suspicious activity in accounts held by former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet and Equatorial Guinea officials.
In federal court on Thursday, Riggs also agreed to a five-year probation deal with the U.S. Department of Justice, which can be terminated if the bank is sold.
Riggs’ parent company, Riggs National Corp., agreed in July to be acquired by PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in a deal that was valued at $779 million when it was announced.
The plea agreement, which is still subject to court approval, is connected to what the federal government said was “repeated and systemic failure” to accurately report suspicious transactions in bank accounts owned and controlled by Pinochet and the government of Equatorial Guinea.
If approved, the $16 million penalty would be the largest criminal penalty ever imposed on a bank of Riggs’ size, the government said.
Sentencing was set for March 29, after Riggs and government lawyers said an April court date was unhelpful for meeting merger deadlines.
“The bank regrets what has occurred and is cooperating fully with the investigation,” Mark Hulkower, an attorney for Riggs, told reporters outside court.
PNC spokesman Brian Goerke declined immediate comment.
Federal probes continue into conduct by Riggs officials, the Justice Department said. U.S. Attorney Kenneth Wainstein would not comment on ongoing investigations.