The Andorran connection (2nd Update)

BancaPrivadaDeAndorraYesterday, the U.S. Department of Treasury designated the Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) as a “foreign financial institution of primary money laundering concern”. After being informed by the U.S., the government of Andorra – a tiny country lodged between Spain and France that you probably have never heard of – quickly ordered the intervention of the BPA.

According to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which investigates all matters related to money laundering, the BPA was aiding Chinese and Russian criminals. What does all of this have to do with Venezuela? Well, the official press release from FinCEN has the answer:

FinCEN’s action also describes the activity of a second high–level manager at BPA in Andorra who accepted exorbitant commissions to process transactions related to Venezuelan third–party money launderers. This activity involved the development of shell companies and complex financial products to siphon off funds from Venezuela’s public oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA). BPA processed approximately $2 billion in transactions related to this money laundering scheme.”

Interestingly enough, this wouldn’t be the first time Venezuelan-related accounts would be frozen in this small land-locked principality/well-known offshore financial center. But this time, it feels different for two reasons.

One, the alleged direct involvement of the bank in handling irregular activities somehow reminds me of a movie. And two, the timing of this announcement, right after the public “tit-for-tat” on Monday between the White House and Miraflores Palace. Was it just a coincidence? Or is this the latest response to Maduro’s new “anti-imperialist offensive”?

I wonder who blew the whistle on the BPA… Perhaps, it came down to a high profile case, involving one Jordi Pujol.

1st UPDATE: Shortly after Andorra intervened the BPA, Spain did the same with its subsidiary Banco Madrid. In 2013, Banco Madrid was given the Capital Award for best private bank. Another winner that same night: Derwick Associates.

2nd UPDATE: The entire board of Banco Madrid resigned tonight, as Spanish authorities will investigate possible evidences of tax evasion and money laundering, involving both this bank and the BPA.