The Antigua and Barbuda Financial Services Regulatory Commission has assumed control of the operations of the Meinl Bank of Antigua Limited, an off-shore Brazilian bank who has been implicated in what is being described as the biggest corruption scandal ever uncovered in Brazil.
The bank was said to have been acquired by Brazilian construction giant, Odebrecht, to launder, distribute and conceal billions of dollars in bribes.
The activities at the Antigua bank were reportedly carried out between 2010 and 2014, before legislative action by the government of Antigua and Barbuda to close loopholes in anti-money laundering legislation and in the administration of international offshore banks.
According to an FSRC media statement issued on February 10th, Pursuant to Section 62(g) and Section 62(h) of the International Banking Act 2016, No 6 of 2016, the Commission removed three of the directors from the board of the Bank.
It further stated that “Pursuant to Section 104(c) of the International Banking Act 2016, No 6 of 2016, Mr. Cleveland Seaforth, Managing Partner, KPMG Eastern Caribbean has been appointed as the Official Administrator of the Bank.
Seaforth has been mandated to investigate the operations of the Bank and submit a report to the Commission on the results of his investigation. On completion of the investigation the Commission says it will review the report and take the ‘appropriate actions’ to protect the interest of depositors and creditors, along with the integrity of the international financial sector.
In July 2016, the Government of Antigua and Barbuda issued a statement indicating that the Office of National Drug & Money Laundering Control Policy (ONDCP) and the FSRC have frozen the accounts of the Brazilian-owned offshore bank that has been in operation since 2006.
The Government noted that it acted immediately in light of information from a Brazilian court that found a prima facie case of money laundering by certain Brazilian nationals and companies.
In Brazil, Odebrecht has been implicated as the principle actor in providing hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to executives of Petrobras – Petrolio Brasileiro SA, the country’s semi-public national oil company.
To date, more than 50 major politicians are under investigation and scores of businessmen have been arrested in “Operation Car Wash,” as the massive corruption investigation in Brazil is known.