BusinessCompany NewsSpanish bank in money laundering probe

Spanish bank in money laundering probe

The US Justice Department has sent a team to Spain to investigate the country's second largest bank, BBVA, for alleged money laundering offences.

The team is expected to question former chairman Emilio Ybarra and chief executive Pedro Luis Uriarte over secret off-shore accounts. The Justice Department probe will focus on an account in Puerto Rico.

In May two UK companies, Inpesca Fishing and Dockways, were named in the case, as they were used by the bank to carry out payments through a BBVA subsidiary in Jersey

The bank’s auditor, Andersen, may also find itself in hot water. In May, Spanish newspaper El Mundo, citing ‘internal sources’, said BBVA had not informed the Spanish listing authorities it had used off-shore funds to balance its books because Andersen had not included a reservation about the matter in its audit report.

The off-shore money was allegedly used to ‘top up’ BBVA directors’ pensions and as contributions to the election of Hugo Chavez as Venezuelan president.

The scandal erupted in December, when an investigation into the bank was launched by Judge Balthasar Garzon. When the offshore accounts were discovered BBVA’s chairman and chief executive resigned. Earlier this year, BBVA repatriated about $200m from the off-shore accounts.

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