The chief executive officer of a bank in the tiny European country of Andorra has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering following U.S. allegations that funds were laundered for groups from China, Russia and Venezuela, Andorran police said Saturday.
Joan Pau Miquel Prats of Banca Privada d'Andorra was taken into custody late Friday and will be held throughout the weekend pending a likely court appearance Monday, said an Andorran police spokesman who spoke on condition of anonymity because of department rules preventing him from being named.
I found Andorra an odd little place, more of a shopping center than a country—a consumer paradise staffed by dark, ugly, misshapen natives.
Even the hotel—said to be Andorra’s finest—was creepy and surreal, its service scarce and unfriendly. But I needed to see these microstates up close and personal.
At ten o’clock the next morning, as appointed by Rene B of Liechtenstein, who opened this door to the Andorrans, I appeared at a small office in Prat de la Creu, Unit # 402.
Jordi Pons Lluelles, their one-man Financial Intelligence Unit, greeted me. He spoke no English; his secretary, Ellie, translated. I made my pitch. Lluelles seemed to grasp my position—chief of the unofficial Monaco intelligence service, responsible to the Prince—and seemed to grasp the concept—micro-European states band together to fight money laundering as a united group.
I used Andorra’s own motto—Through unity comes strength—to clarify and justify what we were attempting to achieve.
Andorra’s banking business, Lluelles explained, derived from Spain and South America—the safe haven in Europe where Spanish speakers (read: drug cartels from Colombia) launder and/or park their revenues. Russians, said Lluelles, had not yet discovered Andorra. He smiled a lot and pronounced this a good idea, agreeing to attend our kick-off meeting in Luxembourg come October.
A few months later, Monaco police chief Andre Muhlberger provided a fascinating tidbit on Andorra that helped explain their duplicitous behavior since my visit in July: Andorra was not interested in cleaning up their money-laundering problem, said Mulhberger, because, for them, it was not a problem.
According to Muhlberger, the sister of Andorra’s interior minister was connected to a man named Durand, reputed to be a big-time, wide-scale Andorra-based money launderer.
Andorra was simply not interested in an association that might cramp the style of a money-spinner from which higher circles had been profiting for decades.
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