LONDON — The Bank of England criticized New York financial regulators Wednesday for unilaterally accusing Standard Chartered of illegally laundering oil money for Iran, while the chief executive of the embattled London bank denied claims of systematic sanctions-busting.
On Monday, the New York State Department of Financial Services accused Standard Chartered of laundering $250 billion of Iranian oil money over a decade in defiance of an American order prohibiting such transactions. The bank admits violations totaling $14 million.
Standard Chartered chief executive, Peter Sands, rejected the US investigators’ central accusation that bank officials had conspired with Iran to evade US sanctions by systematically removing Iranian identification from wire transfers of Iranian cash cleared through its New York office.
Sands offered a partial apology in a conference call with journalists, admitting the bank had violated US sanctions law in about 300 transactions from 2001 to 2007. But he billed these as errors rather than calculated fraud.
‘‘There was no systematic attempt to circumvent sanctions,’’ Sands said, describing the 300 cash transfers as ‘‘clearly wrong and we are sorry that they happened.’’ But he described the New York regulators’ wider accusations as groundless.
New York authorities estimate the true scale of deceptive transactions at 60,000 and include deals as recently as 2010. Standard Chartered has operated on Wall Street since 1976 but could lose its US license if found guilty of sanctions-busting. Sands said the charges had already caused unfair damage to the bank’s reputation.
Earlier, responding to questions at a news conference, Bank of England Governor Mervyn King suggested that New York authorities had moved too quickly. He contrasted the New York announcement on Standard Chartered with the approach taken by American and British agencies to investigate Barclays’ manipulation of the London interbank offered rate, a key interest-rate index known as Libor.
Barclays agreed to pay fines totaling $453 million to settle investigations by US and British regulators.
‘‘In the Libor one, all the regulators involved, whether it be in the United States or in England, produced coordinated publication of reports which came out after the investigation was completed and they had made their judgments,’’ King said.
‘‘That’s very different from what’s happened in the Standard Chartered case where one regulator, but not the others, has gone public while the investigation is still going on.’’