March 23, 2015 / 5:29 PM / 4 years ago

Andorra bank owners launch own probe into U.S. allegations

A woman and her dog walk past a branch of Banca Privada D'Andorra (BPA) in Andorra la Vella, March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The owners of Andorra’s Grupo Banca Privada d’Andorra are launching their own investigation of U.S. allegations the bank laundered money for criminals across the world, two members of the family that owns the institution said on Monday.

Ramon and Higini Cierco Noguer, who were non-executive chairmen of BPA before the board was dismissed, said they were reviewing outside audits that had given the bank a clean bill of health on anti-money laundering practices.

“We will cooperate with all government authorities and stakeholders involved in this matter as we seek clarity on the details of these alarming allegations,” the brothers, whose family owns 80 percent of the bank, said in a statement to Reuters from their offices in Andorra.

Andorra, a tiny principality wedged between France and Spain, took control of BPA this month after the U.S. Department of the Treasury described the bank as an “easy vehicle” for money launderers in Russia, China and Venezuela.

In their first statement to the media since the allegations emerged, the brothers said they had always endeavored to hire good management “to assure that the banking business was conducted with proper controls and according to applicable law.”

The chief executive of the bank, Joan Pau Miquel, has been arrested and is being held in Andorra on suspicion of money laundering. He had been dismissed from the bank earlier along with the board of directors and three managers. [ID:nL6N0WG09L]

Attempts by Reuters to reach Miquel or his lawyers for comment have been unsuccessful.

The U.S. allegations include that BPA facilitated the movement of $4.2 billion in transfers related to Venezuelan money laundering. These occurred largely through its Andorran headquarters, U.S. officials said.

A judicial source told Reuters that Spain’s anti-corruption prosecutor is also looking into whether similar activity occurred at the bank’s unit in that country.

Reporting by Douwe Miedema in Washington. Editing by Andre Grenon

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