6 held in Spain court probe into China’s ICBC bank in Madrid

MADRID – A Spanish judge has ruled that six executives of China’s state-owned ICBC bank in Madrid should be detained pending a judicial probe into suspected money laundering and tax fraud, a court statement said Saturday.

Three Industrial and Commercial Bank of China officials were sent to jail while investigations continue. Three others were given the option of paying 100,000 euros ($111,300) bail, the statement said.

Five executives were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of money laundering, crimes against Spain’s tax authority and forgery. The sixth, who previously worked in ICBC’s Madrid offices but now works in the Luxembourg branch, was nabbed Friday.

All court interviews were held with interpreters present and all six waived their right not to testify. The court statement said the bank continued to operate normally and Wednesday’s search of its Madrid premises “took place within the strict framework of pre-trial investigations.”

The Chinese embassy in Madrid said in a statement that the Chinese government “requires Chinese companies to maintain a strict compliance of the law.”

The statement said the bank was using “the latest anti-money-laundering system” which it said was provided by Spanish authorities.

It said the head of ICBC Europe arrived in Madrid “to help” as soon as he had been informed of the search.

Police said the tax agency’s National Fraud Investigation Office and the European Union’s EUROPOL agency were collaborating in the probe.

The police said the operation was a follow-up on one in 2015 that targeted gangs using the bank to launder to China some 40 million euros ($45 million) proceeding from Chinese-run bargain stores in Spain.

China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Liu Xing spoke Friday with Spain’s embassy official Jose Luis Garcia Galan to convey his government’s hopes that the legal rights of Chinese businesses and personnel in Spain would be guaranteed.