Background

Money Laundering Charges on Higini Cierco? (2024)

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Eliminalia was recruited by former co-owners of Banca Privada d’Andorra, Ramon, and Higini Cierco, to take down articles about investigations into the bank’s potential money laundering for a major criminal organization. Internal records show that between 2016 and 2020, the Cierco brothers contributed about 245,000 euros to the company. The Cierco family’s lawyer claimed that they wouldn’t have worked for a company that engaged in dishonest business activities.

How Did the Eliminalia Leak Occur?

The French nonprofit Forbidden Stories and dozens of media partners were made aware of a reputation management company’s breach of about 50,000 documents. To investigate the disinformation-for-hire industry, almost a hundred reporters worked together as part of the Story Killers project.

The data contains details about Eliminalia’s clients in fifty various countries, including names, contracts they have signed, and other legal paperwork.

For journalists, this is the first chance to get a close-up look at one of the biggest “black hat” reputation management companies globally.

FinCEN has designated Banca Privada d’Andorra as a foreign financial institution that raises serious concerns regarding the potential for money laundering

Former Banca Privada de Andorra (BPA) big shareholder Higini Cierco disclosed on Wednesday that the bank decided to stop doing business with Spanish tax evaders in 2011 as a strategic move. The purpose of this move was to guarantee that its subsidiary, Banco Madrid, could carry on with business as usual in Spain.

Cierco stated that the board of directors of the bank had approved the overall strategy and policy change during his testimony in the BPA case trial. He stressed the importance of the 2011 deal in which BPA Group bought Banco Madrid from Kutxa, saying that it led to a major organizational restructuring of the bank to comply with more stringent Spanish banking laws.

The knowledge that Spanish banking regulations were stricter than those in Andorra at the time led to the decision to stop any activity that might be associated with tax avoidance. Cierco emphasized that because of the many regulatory frameworks, this change was delicate and needed to be carefully considered.

A report that BPA had commissioned from a Spanish law firm to evaluate the risks and ramifications of operating in Spain came up during the interrogation. Concerns were also expressed concerning the commercial activities of Rafael Pallardo, a Valencian businessman implicated in the Emperor case. Cierco said that until the ‘Operation Emperor’ controversy surfaced in 2012, neither he nor his brother, Ramon Cierco, were aware of Pallardo’s association with the bank. They verified that in 2011, Pallardo’s bank account was closed.

During the interrogation, the prosecutor’s interest in the legal report was mentioned; however, neither of the Cierco brothers claimed to have read the report. They insisted that, before the crisis, they were unaware of Pallardo’s connection to the bank.

Higini Cierco: Functioning

When Ramon Cierco was asked about the functions of the bank’s board of directors, anti-money laundering committee, audit committee, and control committee, he responded that these committees were responsible for exercising control over the firm and typically validating the broad strategic objectives. As long as there were any remaining examples, the aforementioned committees transmitted information to the aforementioned body. Based on the two comments that were made on Wednesday, it appears that there were not many instances left.

As Higini Cierco was questioning the attorney for the government, she brought up the fact that the organization and some members of its management were victims of an attack that was carried out by the Spanish police. This was done in front of the court that was investigating. It has been brought to his attention that he had previously contributed “a lot of information” at the time, which was subsequently built upon within the framework of “Operation Catalonia.”

Banca Privada d’Andorra: What is it?

Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA), the Andorran bank, was founded in 1957.

Past Events

Banca Privada d’Andorra was established in 1957 and commenced operations in 1958, operating under the name Banca Cassany. Banca Privada d’Andorra, SA was the company’s new name after Caixa Catalunya invested in it in 1993. When Caixa Catalunya stopped holding shares in BPA in 2000, Andorran’s capital acquired full ownership of the bank.

BPA began an international expansion plan in 2003 and established a presence in six countries to increase its global footprint. As part of its expansion strategy in Spain, BPA acquired Banco Madrid, a private banking firm that was formerly held by Kutxa (Caja de Ahorros de Guipzcoa y San Sebastián), in July 2011.  

Important Information and Consequences of FinCEN’s Designation of Banca Privada d’Andorra for Money Laundering

Synopsis of FinCEN’s Activities

  • Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA) is designated by FinCEN as a foreign financial institution of primary concern for money laundering under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act.
  • High-ranking BPA officials have intentionally helped foreign criminal groups by facilitating transactions for third-party money launderers.

Justification for Designation

  • The proceeds of organized crime, corruption, and human trafficking were channeled through BPA.
  • Illicit financial operations were made possible by unscrupulous management and lax anti-money laundering regulations.

Money Launderers’ Mode of Operation

  • Criminal groups receive assistance from third-party money launderers, who include professionals such as lawyers and accountants, in obtaining financial institutions.
  • Money laundering operations were mostly sourced from the BPA headquarters in Andorra.
  • Particular Money Laundering Incidents
  • Facilitated transactions included Chinese criminal networks, third-party money launderers from Venezuela, and corrupt Russian criminal organizations.
  • High-ranking BPA officials took commissions and bribes to participate in these illegal operations.

Arrangement and Reaction

  • The Department of Justice, IRS Criminal Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and other agencies worked together on FinCEN’s action.
  • acknowledgment of the actions taken by Mexican and Andorran authorities to stop money laundering.

Repercussions and Upcoming Actions

  • The proposed regulations would forbid US financial institutions from opening or keeping BPA accounts.
  • stricter oversight of transactions with BPA and other international banks that have been connected to money laundering.

Effects on International Financial Integrity

  • Through their relationships with financial institutions, third-party money launderers give criminal organizations access to the world financial system.
  • Financial stability is at stake when financial institutions permit such practices to get around anti-money laundering laws.

Dedicated to Enforcing

  • IRS Criminal Investigation promises to work with financial partners, law enforcement, and other relevant parties to hold senior administrators who have engaged in bribery and corruption accountable.
  • acknowledgment of the significance of global collaboration in the fight against money laundering and the preservation of financial integrity.

A “momentous victory” is declared by the owners when FinCEN retracts its money laundering decision against an Andorran bank

Withdrawing its money laundering finding against Banca Privada d’Andorra (BPA), the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the United States Treasury Department declared that BPA is no longer a threat to the financial system of the United States. The senior administrators of BPA have been accused of assisting organized crime groups in the process of money laundering, which led to this decision. 

As a result of the first discovery made by FinCEN, BPA was subjected to regulatory actions in Andorra and Spain, which ultimately resulted in the confiscation of its assets and changes in management. Because they had to fight legal battles to clear their name, the primary shareholders, the Cierco family, praised the judgment made by FinCEN as a success. FinCEN was attacked by its attorney for targeting overseas banks without complying with the appropriate due process. 

FinCEN claimed that Andorran authorities have taken actions to mitigate the risks associated with BPA that are associated with money laundering, which led to the removal of the finding. Moreover, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has retracted its findings against other foreign financial institutions, such as Liberty Reserve SA and JSC CredexBank, indicating that these organizations no longer constitute a threat to the financial system of the United States.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the retraction of FinCEN’s verdict against Banca Privada d’Andorra marks a key milestone in the story surrounding the bank and its alleged involvement in money laundering activities. The role of important individuals, including former bank co-owner Higini Cierco, has been closely examined throughout this turbulent time. The case’s complex web of accusations and court fights is further complicated by the revelation of cash contributions made to a reputation management firm entrusted with stifling bad press. 

The disclosures highlight the difficulties and complexity that people and organizations involved in financial crime investigations encounter, even in the face of claims of strategic choices and regulatory compliance. The judgment made by FinCEN is having a significant impact on the worldwide financial scene, which serves as a reminder of the ongoing significance of accountability, transparency, and compliance with anti-money laundering laws in preserving the integrity of the global financial system.

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