Thursday, April 26, 2018

BNA DENIES WRONG DOING / BANKING ROW

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WILLEMSTAD — The Bank of the Dutch Antilles (BNA) in a press release of today strenuously denies the allegations and statements, headed \’Banking row in the Antilles ruins customers\’ published in Dutch National newspaper De Telegraaf on 11 September 2007.  In the article, local attorney-at-law Daniel Zahavi, among other things, voiced his criticism of the Central Bank\’s role in the affair surrounding the discredited Dutch multi-millionaire, John Deuss, and the bankruptcy of his Curacao-based First Curacao International Bank (FCIB).

Hundreds of commercial FCIB account holders are facing bankruptcy because they have not been able to access their money for more than a year, the Dutch newspaper writes on the authority of Zahavi. The barrister has made similar statements in publications such as the Amigoe several months ago.
The bank, forced to close its doors in 2006, is owned by Deuss, who is suspected of fraud. In total, 5000 account holders are unable to access their bank balances, because the BNA is blocking practically all accounts. In this way, the BNA is holding on to a total of more than half a billion Euros, says De Telegraaf.
Zahavi is the legal representative of an international group of approximately 200 customers of the Bank who have fallen victim to the situation, including various telecommunication and insurance companies. The Central Bank\’s press release strongly criticizes him, but without forcing him to rectify his statements.
The BNA, led by its president, Emsley Tromp: “The newspaper article reports the point of view of the barrister, Zahavi, which, in summary, is that the BNA is wilfully frustrating the liquidation of FCIB, and that the BNA is doing so for shadowy, dark reasons, one of which is that the BNA would be profiting from interest earned on the funds not released (according to Zahavi, almost €2 million in interest income a month, ed.).

The assertions, or more accurately, the accusations by Mr. Zahavi, are not based on fact and are strenuously denied by the BNA. The BNA added, that Mr. Zahavi acts for a number of parties who are regarded as being part of a high-risk group.”
The counsel\’s response, reported by the Amigoe, was as follows: “The BNA has arbitrarily created these high-risk groups, i.e. invented them. The BNA has not provided a single piece of evidence to show that even one of these customers is in any way involved in VAT fraud or other illegal activities. Nor are there any criminal investigations that involve these customers or any legal attachments against them.” He went on to say that the BNA, without any evidence, is now holding on to the funds of these accounts holders.

RECRIMINATIONS
The lawyer and the Central Bank are blaming each other of damaging the reputations \’of Curacao as a trustworthy jurisdiction\’ (Zahavi) and \’of the BNA, and by extension of the financial sector of the Dutch Antilles\’ (BNA).
According to Zahavi, interest income is not the only dark motive on the part of the BNA. “When the FCIB in future is fined, and this is certainly not inconceivable, the Central Bank wants to be able to recover the fine from the account holders. This, despite the fact that the FCIB has been allowed to operate under the supervision of the very same Central Bank. It is a crying shame”, he says in De Telegraaf. Zahavi also suspects, he tells the editor of the Amigoe, that the BNA is guilty of conducting `fishing expeditions\’: “The improper gathering of evidence for the purpose of subsequently using it in other legal proceedings against the account holders. The European Court of Appeals has ruled this to be unlawful.”

Zahavi: \’BNA continuously loses documents that have been provided\’

In response to the tardiness alleged against them, the BNA argues that `in light of the suspected criminal activity, and in order to prevent the release of customer funds being handled illegally\’, the Central Bank has decided that as far as customers in the so-called high-risk group are concerned – and, as mentioned above, this includes Zahavi\’s clients according to the BNA – the FCIB will not release funds until the relevant customer and their account with the FCIB has been investigated. “The liquidation of the FCIB is also complex and time-consuming because of the number of customers and accounts involved.”
Zahavi: “The BNA continuously loses documents that have already been handed over four and five times. Furthermore, they keep on asking for information that has been provided already.” According to him, the account holders have lost confidence in the BNA and suspect that this is being done deliberately, to frustrate the process of releasing the funds. “Moreover, we have received written confirmation from the FCIB that releasing the funds belonging to these account holders is a low priority\’. However, it must be remembered that we are talking about approximately 80 percent of all the account holders. Why is it that the BNA does not finalise these diligently, as they have stated they would?”

This is all about the liquidation of FCIB\’s banking activities. This bank was discredited in September 2006, when it emerged that the Dutch Attorney General\’s Department suspected a considerable number of FCIB customers of being guilty of illegal activities, and that the FCIB was suspected of committing illegal acts, including money laundering. De Telegraaf writes that the FCIB, according to British and Dutch police,\’ acted as the linchpin for the largest tax fraud of all time\’ and that investigations were to show that the bank was used by British criminals in particular to commit VAT fraud, cheating the British government of as much as € 7.5 billion.
FCIB\’s banking license was cancelled on 9 October 2006, and the court on Curacao handed down the emergency measures with regard to the FCIB. Pursuant to the Netherlands Antilles Decree on the Supervision on Banking and Credit Institutions, the BNA was then charged with the liquidation process.

OUT OF HAND
According to the barrister, the administrators promised they would quickly investigate which of the customers were involved in illegal practices, so that all honest account holders could have their money returned. However, according to Zahavi, the investigation got out of hand completely. “The procedures are so stringent, that not one customer is able to meet the BNA\’s requirements. Moreover, new requirements are being set at every turn.” 80 percent of the account holders are now regarded as suspect by the BNA, continued the lawyer. “This is pure nonsense. The majority has never had anything to do with British VAT”, according to Zahavi.

He continued by saying that the BNA has always indicated that the purpose of the investigations is to find out whether account holders may have been involved in British VAT fraud. “If that is what they say, they only need to check those account holders who have dealings involving British VAT. This concerns only a very small number of account holders, estimated at less than 5 percent. Instead, the BNA has now designated an estimated 80 percent of the account holders as being part of a \’high-risk group\’.” According to him, this includes trust offices and internet companies, even though they have never had anything to do with VAT.

Source: National newspaper Amigoe, Curacao, September 12, 2007

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