Colombia to investigate Interbolsa brokerage over tax evasion

BOGOTA Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:42am EST

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will investigate if brokerage Interbolsa evaded taxes with a capital fund in Curacao, the finance minister said on Wednesday, in a deepening scandal involving the Andean country's largest stock brokerage.

Colombia is liquidating Interbolsa after the company failed to make a scheduled payment, forcing the central bank to inject cash into the economy and the government to repeat that it's a one-time case and not indicative of wider financial problems.

Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas told local radio that he had ordered an investigation into operations by Interbolsa and Curacao-listed investment fund Premium Capital, which has joint shareholders with the Colombian brokerage.

The financial market regulator essentially took over Interbolsa last week after it was unable to make a payment to a local bank due to a liquidity squeeze tied to repurchase agreements, or repos.

Interbolsa, with about 50,000 clients and one-third of daily operations on the stock market, also ceded control of its local bond portfolio to Bancolombia SA.

Market players have so far reacted with caution over Interbolsa's woes, agreeing it is probably an isolated case but also staying alert to any signs of a spillover to other financial institutions and contagion from perceived risk.

In a sign of more trouble to follow, Colombia's regulator and attorney general's office called a press conference for later on Wednesday -- experts said they could not rule out criminal cases against the company's management.

The investigations could have wider implications as far as how overseas investors see Colombia and the way its companies to operate.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Jack Kimball; editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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