Riggs Bank found involved in money laundering

One of Washington's oldest banks will have to stop its long existence

One of the oldest and most prestigious banks in the US – Riggs Bank – stops its 168-year old existence. It was Riggs Bank, which provided the American government with $7.2 million in gold bullions to purchase Alaska from Russia.

Twenty-one American presidents used to be Riggs Bank's clients. Jonathan Bush, George W. Bush's uncle, has been chairing the bank's investment department to present day.

Riggs Bank will be taken over by the Pennsylvania-based PNC Financial Services Group. The transaction is to be completed in the first quarter of 2005.

Riggs Bank's assets are evaluated in six billion dollars. The bank has over 50 departments in Washington. It is considered to be the USA's largest bank to service foreign embassies and diplomatic missions. The conditions of the transaction with PNC Financial Services Group stipulate the bank's complete renunciation of keeping foreign embassies accounts and operating with foreign clients in offshore zones.

Riggs Bank's main building is situated opposite the White House and the Treasury Department. The sale of one of Washington's oldest bank was announced, when it became known that Riggs Bank was insufficiently checking its client's accounts within the framework of the money laundering struggle. The investigation was conducted by the US Senate and the Treasury Department.

The investigation revealed serious violations the bank had made in keeping Saudi Arabia embassy's accounts. It also unveiled multimillion accounts connected with renowned dictators – former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet and Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang.

Member of the Senate commission to investigation Riggs Bank's operations Carl Levin said, the bank's executives personally met Pinochet in 1994 in Chile. They offered the dictator to open accounts in the bank and to assist in the establishment of two offshore corporations in the Bahamas. After Augusto Pinochet was arrested in 1998 in London, Riggs Bank concealed the information about his accounts from both American and British law-enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the bank changed accounts data to hide their owner, the senator said. Carl Levin added, Riggs Bank helped the Chilean dictator take the money and move it to another bank.

As a result of the Senate investigation, the US government decided to toughen the control over the execution of the money laundering law among American banks. The press-service of the US Treasury Department told RIA Novosti, the department's service to struggle with financial crimes would set up a special administration. The new structure will collect and analyze the information about American banks' activities in the field of struggle with money laundering. Quarterly reports from the new administration will be presented to the US Treasury Department.

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Author`s name Olga Savka