February 19, 2016 / 10:40 AM / 2 years ago

China attaches high importance to case involving biggest bank ICBC in Spain

BEIJING (Reuters) - China attaches high importance to a case involving the Madrid arrest of five directors of its largest bank by assets, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) (601398.SS) (1398.HK), a Chinese foreign ministry official said on Friday.

A woman walks past a Spanish Civil Guards at the headquarters of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) during a raid in Madrid, Spain, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Juan Medina

The arrests followed a police raid on the lender’s office in the Spanish capital as part of a probe into alleged money laundering, Europol has said.

Liu Haixing, assistant foreign minister, met Jose Luis Garcia Galan of the Spanish embassy on Friday, the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement on its website.

Liu asked that Spain protect the rights and interests of Chinese firms and citizens there and handle the case in accordance with the law, the ministry said.

A Beijing-based spokesman for ICBC has said its Madrid branch was cooperating with the investigation.

The Spanish embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to telephone calls from Reuters to seek comment on the details of the meeting.

China’s large state-owned lenders have been dogged by allegations of improper conduct as they expand abroad.

The probe into ICBC by police, the Spanish tax agency and Europol involves funds handled by a criminal group that the Interior Ministry says passed through the bank and were transferred to China.

Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan; Editing by Clarence Fernandez

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