On September 6, the Spanish National Court indicted the world’s largest bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). The reason: money laundering linked to mafias of Chinese origin that generate business in Europe. The measure has consequences for the European subsidiary.
The investigation, called “Operation Snake”, had important conclusions. One of them was that the banking establishment, located in Spain since May 6, 2010, had a clearly illegal line of business. It was mainly dedicated to money laundering of illicit profits of organized criminal groups in the eastern country. It is also known that the Board of Directors of the ICBC Luxembourg entity was involved.
Companies involved in crimes
Criminal groups such as Snake, Emperor and Cheqian allegedly obtained important benefits from exports originating in China, as well as from products located mainly in the Spanish market. Apparently, the ICBC granted virtually no loans to its clients and its activity was concentrated in enabling the banking operations of the criminal organisations. According to the investigation, this branch remained opaque in its transactions and funds, thanks to techniques such as the fractioning of deposits, the use of unnamed accounts of the banking institution itself, invoices and use of false documents, among other crimes.
Ismael Moreno is the judge in charge of this important sentence. He himself described the illegal operations carried out by this bank, which began in 2011, a few months after the opening of the first branch located in Madrid. He himself has indicated that the investigation should be extended to the Luxembourg branch, which gives European significance to the case.
The judge also estimated that the value of illicit banking operations is close to 90 million euros. These transfers went to and from Spain and China from 2011 until 2014. Most of the bank’s clients were allegedly involved in suspicious activities “of tax and tariff fraud”.
The ICBC Spain did not apply any control measures to control the origin of the funds that entered the accounts of the entity. Nor did they undertake detection and communication actions against the financing of terrorism. These are regulations and practices of a rigorous regional and international nature that are fulfilled by the majority of banks worldwide.
Consequences for the ICBC bank
Initially the investigations focused only on two directors of the Asian bank and another 5 managers. But what the judge established points out that the legal actions will have international significance and will be dealt with rigorously by the competent regional judicial institutions.
The important thing in this case is that ICBC has been directly responsible as the subject of the crime of money laundering, and not managers or individuals as happens in this type of sentence.
From this indictment, the Chinese bank ICBC could lose its banking licence, which means a series of responsibilities and demands with respect to the fight against the laundering of illicit capital. Remember also that this bank is a public banking institution in its country of origin.
According to the authorities, it is known that the Chinese mafia moved to Spain from 2009 to late 2012.