Spanish police raid Chinese bank in money laundering probe

MADRID – Spanish police searched offices of China’s ICBC bank in downtown Madrid and arrested five people Wednesday as part of a money laundering and tax fraud probe.

A police statement said the search of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was a follow-up on a police operation in 2015 that targeted gangs using the bank to launder to China some 40 million euros ($45 million) proceeding from Chinese-run bargain stores across Spain.

A statement from Europol, the European Union’s police agency, said five bank directors were arrested.

It said the 2015 operation against Chinese organized crime groups based in Spain dismantled a criminal network suspected of importing huge amounts of goods from China without declaring them on customs forms, to avoid import and tax duties.

Europol said subsequent investigations revealed that the network deposited the money earned into ICBC, which is accused of sending the funds to China without checking their origin as required by law.

Following the money trail, the agency said, Spanish investigators found that the system was employed by several other Chinese and Spanish criminal groups.

Wednesday’s raid was carried out in co-ordination with Spain’s anti-corruption prosecutors’ office.

Police said a judge in Parla, a town in the southern part of Madrid where many of the Chinese store wholesalers are located, had ordered the raid and placed a secrecy order on the investigations.


Mike Corder contributed from Amsterdam.