28th May 2015 - The controling family of BPA take their defence to the Wall Street Journal
Ramon Cierco who with is brother Higini own 75% of BPA has protested against the accusations of FinCEN highlighting in the Wall Street Journal that from the year 2000 onwards BPA had been audited by KPMG and Deloittes specifically on anti money laundering audits and had always emerged with flying colours. He also asked why in the months of investigation by FinCEN and US enforcement agencies, and before they directly informed the Andorran Authorities, that nobody had picked up the phone to them or had even contemplated an internal investigation. Everything to the Cierco family had come as shock and disbelief. There are also questions raised as to why the Andorran Government sat on the information from FinCEN (which the authorities dispute) before taking the resulting drastic action against the entity.
Whilst the final report by Price Waterhouse is still being digested, the general feeling is now that the bad components of the bank (known to be a not too significant minority of invested funds) can most likely be written off and met by reserve and family funds, and that the creditors, investors and depositors will be fully re-imbursed. There is still nothing concrete on the future structure of the bank, local rumours have tended to indicate a possible merger with another local bank, but realistically whether a new bank arises from the ashes or whether there is a takeover the old name of BPA is unlikely to be around for much longer.
As an editorial opinion the priority is resolution and full access to funds and investments and most importantly that all current and impending court actions and of course the inevitable political point scoring whether in Andorra or elsewhere must not be allowed to delay this.
12th May 2015 -BPA the day of reckoning
Today marks 60 days since the sorry saga of BPA blew up and this day is the deadline laid down by FinCEN ( Of the Department of the US Treasury) for the findings from the investigation. The report completed by INAF and Price Waterhouse, seconded into help with the audit, is now probably in the hands of a representative from Andorra being made to wait outside the Treasury in the pouring rain. There is no deadline though from the masters across the pond for a response nor will we know their views until they decide when or if to make a statement. Meanwhile the so called fifth and strongest special measure of their operating manual continues in effect (meaning that BPA has no access whatsoever to the US market nor the clearing house in New York), as do the local restrictions of the weekly withdrawals. Now is the time for the Government here to release the findings, good or bad. Every day that passes will serve only to undermine public confidence, forget the hush hush secrecy, the public and especially the clients need to know and quickly.
9th May 2015- BPA fingerpointing starts in earnest.
Big headlines today that the Cierco family who own BPA are blaming the Americans for "destroying a viable and solvent financial entity" . They and major shareholders of BPA also blame Jordi Cinca, the Minister of Finance for taking such irreversible and drastic action based on some unproven communication from a Department of the US Treasury. As I outlined in recent editorials, very little has in fact been found and the challenge now for the Government is how to deal with this and prevent the stampede for the door when restrictions are lifted. Shareholders also suspect that Spanish (revenge) politics relating to historical problems with Andorra on its doorstep and all the missing monies from cases unrelated to BPA (Pujol being just the last in this series) may have played a role in this. I am sure that neither the Americans nor the Spanish are losing any sleep over what has happened in Andorra: Whether or not there is a criminal case against the only Director detained for this, Joan Pau Miquel, remains to be seen. I would not fancy his chances since a release and no charge will lend support to the voices here that the Government have been inept!
5th May 2015 - BPA- Reached rock bottom but still digging
The initial kneejerk reaction to placate the Americans went down well in International circles and has avoided a potentially game changing sanction against the bank. For the local community frustrations are at boiling point with pressure groups, court actions and anti Government rhetoric. Local businesses in particular have been in some cases fatally affected by the weekly limit of 2.500 euro withdrawals, not to mention the thousands of individuals who are getting no answers. The problem is finding and end game for all of this. My sources close to the investigations reveal that very little in fact has been found as the Americans huffed and puffed at day one. Price Waterhouse who are auditing the bank on behalf of the Ministry of Finance ( INAF) have separated the good and the bad: It seems though that the bad comprises expired passports, lack of KYC forms ( which incidentally has not been compulsory by the Banking Authority as in other countries), and general superficial failings in documents at the time of opening, if this is the case it may all prove rather of an embarassment to the level of Government action taken. Having taken that action and looking forward, just how can the Government lift the weekly restrictions without every client and company making a run for the exit with their rightful money?
The only way is for a third and most preferably foreign bank to take over and form an umbrella to restore confidence, and this is a prime opportunity for Andorra to finally shuffle off its xenophobic idealism and allow in that foreign bank (of which there are many who have expressed an interest in this). Let us implore to the Government that this opportunity is unique, allowing Andorra to go forward with the economic opening with which it is far too cautiously dabbling.
(Incidentally Andorra has just dropped 31 places in the rankings of countries on free speeech and reporting.....Not on this website !!)
2nd April 2015 - BPA Positive Developments
Some positive developments are emerging as the BPA case progresses. Firstly as was urged in an editorial below, it appears that the Government in concert with the remaining four banks unaffected by the BPA scandal are now orchestrating a central fund together by allocating 7.5 million euros each. Now the exact purpose of this fund which is designed as a safety net in future banking crisis (and which is long overdue in my opinion), has not yet been finalised or announced and whether this may form the basis of a central deposit guarantee fund or indeed be relevant to the current BPA scandal.Secondly the USA has re-assured Andorra and more importantly the global community that the initial complaint was and remains restricted to the evidence of money laundering by elements within that bank, and that NO economic sanctions are intended against the bank as a whole. This second point is signiificant and indicates what Government sources have indicated in that BPA will continue after being restructured, possible rebranded and with the bad elements removed from the existing structure. The article in the Telegraph recently suggesting that Andorra is the next banking crisis is based on fiction not fact, it is a very different situation from the EU banking crisis but which has unfortunately allowed foreign journalists to ( probably jealously) draw this fictional analogy. It is my opinion ( only) based on facts and contacts available here that the situation will be resolved but this will take more time.
And how it all started....