Swiss watchdog faults two more banks in Venezuela money-laundering probe

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ZURICH, Nov 18 (Reuters) – Switzerland’s financial regulator reprimanded two more Swiss banks for breaching their obligations to combat money laundering as it wrapped up a five-year investigation into banks’ dealings with people linked to Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

The FINMA watchdog contacted 30 Swiss banks during its investigation. It has already taken issue with two former chief executives of private bank Julius Baer and rapped Credit Suisse for anti-corruption failings.

FINMA has now reprimanded five banks in total since the investigation began in 2016.

In the final case disclosed on Thursday, the regulator criticized Banca Zarattini & Co SA and CBH Compagnie Bancaire Helvétique SA.

FINMA found that both Banca Zarattini in the period between 2014 and 2018 and CBH Bank between 2012 and 2020 breached obligations to combat money laundering and their duties to implement appropriate risk management policy, a serious infringement of supervisory law, FINMA said.

“Both banks failed to carry out sufficient economic background clarifications into business relationships and transactions with increased money-laundering risks. Adequate documentation was also lacking in these areas,” it said.

FINMA imposed a temporary ban on accepting new Venezuelan and politically exposed persons as clients on Banca Zarattini. The measures imposed on CBH Bank include the termination of all remaining business relationships with Venezuelan clients.

In addition, CBH must review other especially risky client relationships and terminate these if necessary, FINMA said.

Banca Zarattini said it contacted the regulator as soon as it became aware of potential problems and cooperated extensively with the inquiry. It had since improved its anti-money laundering and compliance systems.

“The bank accepts without reserves the conclusions reached by the supervisory authority in relation to the shortcomings found in the way the bank combats money laundering, highlighting that these shortcomings only refer to a limited period of time and a limited number of relationships with Venezuelan clients,” it said.

In a separate statement, CBH noted FINMA had not imposed sanctions against the bank or staff and that the bank had already taken decisions that address the restrictions FINMA imposed.

($1 = 0.9279 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by John Revill Editing by Michael Shields and Mark Potter)

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