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Andorra takes over bank accused by US of money laundering

March 10, 2015

MADRID (AP) — Andorra’s government announced Tuesday that the tiny European country is taking over management of one of its five banks after the United States accused top bank managers of helping launder money for criminal groups from China, Russia and Venezuela.

Two government controllers have been ordered to manage Banca Privada d’Andorra while the alleged misconduct is investigated, Andorra’s government said in a statement, adding that the bank’s deposits and solvency are not at risk.

Andorra acted after the U.S. Treasury Department’s financial crimes enforcement network named BPA as a foreign financial institution “of primary money-laundering concern.”

The Treasury Department said one unnamed high-level BPA manager accepted “exorbitant commissions” to develop shell companies that helped Venezuelan money launderers siphon about $2 billion from Venezuela’s national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Two other BPA managers helped alleged Russian and Chinese money launderers who were previously arrested in Spain, the department said in a statement.

The Chinese man, Gao Ping, also stands accused of money laundering for “numerous” Spanish business owners, the statement added.

The accused BPA managers accessed the U.S. financial system via four U.S. banks that were not named, processing hundreds of millions of dollars, the statement said.

They “established financial services tailored to its third-party money launderer clients to disguise the origin of funds,” the statement said. “In exchange for some of these services, BPA’s high-level managers accepted payments and other benefits from their criminal clients.”

BPA did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Andorra is wedged between Spain and France in the Pyrenees mountains. It is known mainly as a destination for skiing, duty-free shopping and banking.

The government said it took over the bank to preserve “the good name of Andorra and its financial” institutions and to ensure “the normality of the financial market.”

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