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Panama bank regulator defends Credicorp Bank over money laundering allegations

Panama bank regulator Superintendencia de Bancos de Panamá, or SBP, on May 25 defended Credicorp Bank SA against money laundering allegations related to an investigation into Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, maintaining it was common practice for banks to charge commissions for their services.

In an official statement, SBP said all banks in Panama charged such a fee, including Credicorp, and that recent claims that the bank had charged Odebrecht a special 2% fee for deposits of illegal funds was simply not correct.

"[O]pinions and remarks that are made out of context can generate a negative environment to the stability ... of the banking system," the regulator said. It noted that it had investigated all Panama-based banking institutions mentioned in the Odebrecht case, but that it was obliged to keep the information confidential.

In defending Credicorp, SPB also confirmed that the bank complied with all solvency and liquidity indices established by the legal and regulatory framework of Panama.

The statement came after Sidney Sittón, a Panama-based attorney, reportedly filed a complaint with public prosecutors charging Credicorp Bank and Active Capital Internacional of money laundering and influence peddling related to Odebrecht's alleged bribery scheme. The attorney alleged the construction company paid millions of dollars in bribes to Panamanian politicians through the aforementioned companies.

Sittón said the charges were based on testimonies Odebrecht executive Fernando Migliaccio gave to Brazilian prosecutors. He is alleged to have been in charge of distributing bribes into offshore accounts. According to Migliaccio, Credicorp Bank charged a 2% fee for monies received and transferred through the bank.

The complaint also alleges that accounts with Credicorp Bank are not mentioned in the Odebrecht investigation in Panama as the company bribed high-ranking officials and politicians.