ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss private bank Julius Baer (BAER.S) faces investigation by watchdog FINMA over whether it followed correct procedures against money laundering in its ties with a former Argentine client, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper said on Wednesday.
The bank, which has previously been censured by FINMA over its efforts to combat money laundering, confirmed the latest investigation.
The paper said the former customer was a well-known Argentine entrepreneur who is suspected of siphoning off more than 50 million Swiss francs ($52.7 million) from his company between 2007 and 2016 and moving it into several accounts at Julius Baer.
Employees at the bank discovered irregularities in these accounts in 2016 and its internal audit instructed compliance officials to conduct in-depth clarifications about the customer and his transactions. As a result, his accounts with the bank were closed. The money laundering reporting office appears not to have been informed of the events, the paper said.
In February FINMA said it had found serious shortcomings in Julius Baer’s anti-money laundering processes between 2009 and early 2018.
The failings were connected to alleged corruption linked to Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and world soccer federation FIFA, resulting in enforcement proceedings which FINMA had concluded.
The bank last year appointed Philipp Rickenbacher as chief executive to replace Bernhard Hodler, the former risk chief who took over when Boris Collardi left in 2017 to help to run unlisted rival Pictet.
Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by David Goodman