(Recasts with details from prosecutors about arrest, charges)
By Martha Graybow
NEW YORK, July 29 (Reuters) - A former JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) private banking executive has been arrested in Argentina on charges of embezzling about $5.4 million from bank clients.
Hernan Arbizu was charged in 15-count indictment unsealed in U.S. District Court in New York. He was arrested on Monday in Buenos Aires and is being held by Argentine authorities, pending extradition, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan said.
The indictment contends Arbizu, 41, engaged in a scheme to withdraw funds from bank customers without their knowledge through the use of unauthorized wire transfers. The U.S. government is also seeking the forfeiture of the roughly $5.4 million it contends was embezzled.
The name of Arbizu’s attorney was not immediately available.
JPMorgan said in a statement it “appreciates the cooperation and the prompt joint action of the Argentine and American authorities.” It said it could not comment further because of a pending court case.
Last month, the investment bank’s JP Morgan Securities unit sued Arbizu, accusing him of sharing sensitive information with other firms. The court papers in that case said Arbizu had lived in Connecticut while employed by JPMorgan as a vice president in the private banking division, but fled to Argentina before being fired.
Arbizu had been responsible for handling business involving high-net-worth individuals in Argentina and Chile, the lawsuit said.
According to the criminal indictment, Arbizu initiated or helped initiate 12 unauthorized wire transfers from private banking clients at JPMorgan and UBS AG UBSN.VX between March 2007 and April 2008.
He was charged with 12 counts of wire fraud, one count of embezzlement by a bank employee, one count of bank fraud and one count of identity theft. He could face as much as 30 years in prison if convicted. (Reporting by Lisa Von Ahn and Andre Grenon)