An inspection by Slovakia’s Financial Police at Privatbanka, owned by the Penta financial group, has revealed suspicions of unusual transactions that may cost the bank its licence, said outgoing Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic from the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) to the media on April 3.
Lipšic stated that the Financial Police reported that the bank failed in two instances to report money transfers worth around €7 million. Lipšic claims this may be sufficient reason to withdraw Privatbanka’s banking license. The outgoing minister also laid accusations against the General Prosecutor's Office, saying it became unusually active after Privatbanka filed a criminal complaint on March 27 over suspicions of malfeasance at the office. "Under the mode of special circumstances" the office asked for documentation related to the police inspection at Privatbanka, Lipšic said.
Lipšic added, as reported by the TASR newswire, that the General Prosecutor’s Office started urging the Office for Fight Against Organised Crime (ÚBOK) to immediately provide all documents and all copies of inspections concerning Privatbanka to it.
"I don't know whether the aim was to deter the auditors and the financial police or to help those who are suspected of money laundering," Lipšic stated, as quoted by TASR, adding that the action was non-standard because the Prosecutor's Office usually only takes action after a week or more, not the next day.
Lipšic identified the two questionable transactions as a transfer of €3 million from abroad to the account of a private individual, saying the money was allegedly paid for a securities trade in a tax haven. The other case concerned a transaction of €4 million which was paid by the Bratislava I Tax Office and differed in the nature and extent from the business activities of a particular Privatbanka client, Lipšic said.
The Financial Police returned its investigation of Privatbanka shortly after Lipšic told the media in February that he suspected money laundering had occurred in the first half of 2011. The bank was fined €15,000 last year for failure to report a questioned transaction as well not having written data on 248 financial operations. Privatbanka stated that the operations were ordinary and standard.
The bank’s director, Ľuboš Ševčík, told TASR that Lipšic committed a harsh attack against Privatbanka and chose to go public based on incomplete information when he spoke about his suspicions.
"The inspection itself is far from over. In fact, the bank received a note on the inspection results only at 9:00 today and, according to this document, the bank has five days time to make a statement on the findings. Despite this, Mr. Minister went ahead and informed the public about the case, as if this matter was already closed and the results were final," stated Ševčík, as quoted by TASR.
He noted that no sanction can be properly imposed on the bank before it makes a response to an inspection and said he objects to Lipšic publishing confidential bank information, adding that Privatbanka is considering changing its existing criminal complaint against an 'unknown perpetrator' to a complaint against a specific person though Ševčík refused to specify whether that would be Lipšic or one of the police investigators.
Source: TASR, Sme
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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