Puerto Rico suspends operations of bank amid global probe

Jun 30, 2022, 1:11 AM | Updated: 1:35 pm

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Authorities said Thursday they have suspended the operations of Puerto Rico-based Euro Pacific International Bank, saying it is under suspicion of facilitating money laundering and offshore tax evasion.

The investigation was launched by Puerto Rico’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions, which said the bank that was established in the U.S. territory in October 2017 came under scrutiny following a lack of internal controls, a lack of compliance and a level of insolvency.

Commissioner Natalia Zequeira said that despite “numerous opportunities,” the bank “has not wanted to comply.”

The bank, located in the capital of San Juan, did not return a message asking for comment. It was founded by Peter Schiff, a stock broker and financial analyst.

Jim Lee, chief of the International Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, said he could neither confirm nor deny whether Schiff was under investigation.

Zequiera declined to say how many clients the bank has and its total assets, saying that is confidential information. However, she said creditors would be paid in a certain order.

The announcement came after the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement launched an operation two years ago to scrutinize financial institutions in their member countries: the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and the Netherlands.

Officials with the agency said their investigations into the Euro Pacific International Bank are independent from the one conducted by Puerto Rico’s government and are still underway. Overall, the organization said, it is overseeing some 100 civil and criminal investigations worldwide.

Lee, with the IRS, said that the “Puerto Rico financial industry will not be a haven for tax evaders or illegal conduct.”

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Puerto Rico suspends operations of bank amid global probe