Tanzanian bank FBME shut down over US terror funding charges

Tanzania has shut down one of the country’s largest banking institutions, FBME, following charges of aiding the finance of terrorism by US authorities.

A statement from the central bank said it had revoked its licence.

It was accused in the US of, among other things, money laundering and facilitating the payment of thousands of dollars from a financier of the Lebanese Hezbollah Islamist militants.

In its defence, the bank said it had boosted anti-money laundering measures.

FBME was set up in Cyprus before moving its headquarters to Tanzania in 2003.

The US Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) had made the original accusations of the links with Hezbollah.

FBME was placed under the management of Tanzania’s central bank in 2014 following the FinCEN allegations, Reuters news agency reports.

The bank then mounted a legal challenge against the allegations saying that it had complied with regulations.

A US court however ruled in favour of FinCEN in April, allowing it to shut the bank out of accessing the US financial system.

About FBME:

  • 1982 – founded in Cyprus as the Federal Bank of the Middle East Ltd
  • 1986 – changed its country of incorporation to the Cayman Islands
  • 2003 – left the Cayman Islands and incorporated and established its headquarters in Tanzania
  • 2005 – changed its name from the Federal Bank of the Middle East Ltd to FBME Bank Ltd
  • 2014 – regarded as the largest bank in Tanzania based on its $2bn (£1.5bn) asset size, despite having only four Tanzania-based branches
  • 2014 – over 90% of its global banking business done by Cyprus branch
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