[A-List] Europe/US rivalry: Venezuela & Monroe doctrine
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Fri Jul 19 02:59:07 MDT 2002
I think that this is very significant, and it would be good if our Latin America watchers were able to dig up more on this as it develops. The Argentina collapse last December already illustrated the nature of inter-imperialist rivalry as it affects South America, as US policymakers were largely content to let the economy unravel while European interests, mainly Spanish and French, frantically tried to save the value of their assets. This was good for maintaining a higher valued dollar relative to the euro, among other things. Such was the level of European desperation that "Socialist" former prime minister Felipe Gonzales was despatched to Buenos Aires by Spanish business interests to try to engineer their safe exit. To no avail. Since then we have witnessed the bungled US-backed coup attempt in Venezuela, and a worrying simmering of orchestrated discontent since Chavez's return. Now, apparently, the US Justice Department is digging up "evidence" of money laundering including "contributions" channelled covertly to finance Chavez's election campaigns. How convenient.
US probes alleged money laundering by BBVA
By Leslie Crawford in Madrid
Financial Times; Jul 17, 2002
The US Department of Justice is investigating alleged money laundering by BBVA, Spain's second largest bank.
US attorneys have arrived in Madrid and are today expected to question Emilio Ybarra and Pedro Luis Uriarte, the bank's former chairman and chief executive respectively, who resigned in December amid a scandal over secret offshore accounts.
The US probe centres on BBVA's activities in Puerto Rico, where it has an offshore subsidiary.
The US attorney-general's office, in a letter to Spanish prosecutors, said it was conducting "a grand jury investigation into whether BBVA infringed US laws against the laundering of proceeds from drug trafficking, and whether there was a conspiracy to promote an institutional policy with the intent of deceiving the banking authorities of the US".
A grand jury hears evidence brought by prosecutors and decides whether charges should be brought.
A copy of the letter, obtained by the Financial Times, says former BBVA employees in Puerto Rico interviewed by US prosecutors alleged that "BBVA did not comply with US banking laws, did not place any importance on compliance, and also maintained customer accounts in false names to conceal their true identities".
The probe was triggered by the testimony of Nelson Rodriguez, a former BBVA employee in Puerto Rico, who is serving a jail sentence for embezzlement.
The alleged wrongdoings took place between 1997 and 1999, before the merger of Banco Bilbao Vizcaya and Argentaria that created BBVA, and at a time when BBV was competing with Banco Santander to build the largest banking franchise in Latin America.
BBVA says Mr Rodriguez is a "compulsive liar" and accuses him of doctoring documents. BBVA denies any allegations of wrongdoing in Puerto Rico.
The US investigation, however, could deal a further blow to the international reputation of BBVA, in the wake of the bank's admission that it held secret offshore accounts in Jersey, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
These were used to top up the pensions of BBVA directors and pay "contributions" to the electoral campaign of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.
BBVA repatriated some $200m held in the secret, offshore accounts earlier this year, after coming clean with Spain's banking authorities. Directors involved in the scandal have resigned.
Spanish prosecutors have turned their attention to BBVA's alleged money laundering in Puerto Rico, and are co-operating with US investigators.
BBVA admits $70m undeclared funds
By Joshua Levitt
Financial Times; Jul 19, 2002
Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, Spain's second largest bank, informed an investigating Spanish judge that it had repatriated some $70m in undeclared offshore funds between 1980 and 1995.
According to lawyers at Madrid's anti-corruption office, the revelation, made late Tuesday and based on an internal bank audit, is not expected to create new problems for the bank. BBVA cannot be pursued under Spanish law for hiding the accounts because their existence pre-dated legislation now governing full disclosure.
The bank admitted to holding EUR225m ($227m) in offshore accounts, which were used to fund extra pensions for its directors and pay "contributions" to the electoral campaign of Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela.
Meanwhile,the US Department of Justice is questioning Emilio de Ybarra and Pedro Luis Uriarte, the bank's former chairman and chief executive, respectively, over allegations of money laundering through its offshore operation in Puerto Rico.
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