Spanish unit of Andorra bank files for bankruptcy protection

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

MADRID (AP) — A rush of withdrawals by clients of the Spanish unit of an Andorran bank accused of money laundering prompted government administrators to seek bankruptcy protection for the unit and the suspension of its operations, Spain's central bank said Monday.

Banco de Madrid SA needs the protection granted by a judge following a "sharp deterioration" of its finances with "large withdrawals of clients' funds" after its parent company in Andorra was accused by the U.S. of helping groups from China, Russia and Venezuela launder money, the central bank said in a statement.

Banco de Madrid's owner, Banca Privada d'Andorra, was named a "primary money-laundering concern" last week by the U.S. Treasury Department. Andorra then took over the parent company and officials from Spain and Panama took over the bank's Spanish and Panamanian divisions.

Also Monday, an Andorran police official said the chief executive officer of Banca Privada d'Andorra was taken to appear before a judge Sunday night after being arrested Friday on suspicion of money laundering. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of department policy.

Officials at Andorra's court said Monday that they had been instructed to give no information on what happened at the appearance of CEO Joan Pau Miquel Prats and also declined comment on whether he had been released from custody or not.

Spain's central bank statement said Banco de Madrid deposits are guaranteed up to 100,000 euros ($105,000).

The central bank did not disclose how much money had been withdrawn from Banco de Madrid, which caters to wealthy clients.

Employees were allowed to enter the bank's downtown Madrid headquarters branch Monday morning but a sign posted on the front door said it was closed for clients because of the central bank's bankruptcy protection request.

Andorra, in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, has 85,000 residents and is a popular destination for skiing, shopping and banking.