ZURICH (Reuters) – Julius Baer can resume large acquisitions after markets watchdog FINMA lifted a ban levied against the Swiss private bank last year for failings in combating money laundering involving cash linked to world soccer body FIFA and Venezuela’s oil company.
In February 2020, FINMA cited scores of failings at Switzerland’s third-largest listed bank, including its acceptance of a 70 million Swiss franc ($74.2 million) transfer for a Venezuelan customer in 2014 despite knowing he was accused of corruption.
FINMA at the time ordered Julius Baer to improve its controls and appointed an auditor to oversee the group, and the Zurich-based bank said on Wednesday that it had made strides on fulfilling its obligations to combat corruption.
“Julius Baer welcomes the lifting of the ban on complex acquisitions given the significant progress the bank has made in strengthening its company-wide risk management, particularly with regard to money laundering prevention,” the bank said in a statement.
In January, two former Baer CEOs — Chief Executive Boris Collardi, now a partner at Geneva wealth manager Pictet, and his successor Bernhard Hodler — were reprimanded by FINMA for money laundering-related failings involving Venezuelan oil company PDVSA and corruption at FIFA.
Despite lifting the acquisitions ban, FINMA will continue its scrutiny of the bank, with Baer saying the market supervisor “will continue to closely accompany Julius Baer until the full implementation of these measures through the mandated auditor and additional supervisory measures”.
($1 = 0.9439 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields, Kirsti Knolle)