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Six arrested in ICBC money laundering case ordered to jail

MADRID/BEIJING (Reuters) - Six staff at the Madrid branch of China’s biggest bank Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) who were detained this week in an investigation into alleged money laundering were ordered to jail by a Madrid court on Saturday.

A man rides a segway near Spanish Civil Guards at the headquarters of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) during a raid in Madrid, Spain, February 17, 2016. REUTERS/Juan Medina

The six testified for more than 14 hours on Friday and early on Saturday as part of the investigation known as “operation Shadow”. Three were ordered to jail without bail and the other three were ordered to jail but granted bail of 100,000 euros. It was not immediately clear if they had paid the bail.

The court said in a statement that all six were suspected of having committed “several economic crimes”, without giving any further details.

A legal source had earlier said the six faced charges of money laundering, fraud and tax crimes and that one of them was the Madrid branch’s general manager.

Under Spanish law, if there is enough evidence of a crime, suspects can be held in jail while an investigative judge continues to work on the case. This can take weeks, months or in some cases as long as two years before a trial is set.

The arrests follow an investigation by police, the Spanish tax agency and Europol into alleged money laundering through the branch involving funds transferred by a criminal group via the bank to China.

In a previous statement released on Friday the court had said the Madrid branch would continue to operate.

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“The entrance and registration was done within the strict framework of the investigation and, so, there has been no judicial intervention in the bank itself,” it said.

No one at the bank in Madrid was immediately available for comment but an ICBC spokesman in Beijing said the lender was “paying great attention to developments.”

The Chinese Embassy in Spain said in a statement on its website that the bank had been using the “latest anti-money laundering systems” to strictly control capital.

It said ICBC had played an active role in supporting the Spanish economy, including helping finance more than 1 billion euros ($1.1 bln) in investment projects.

“Since its launch, ICBC’s Madrid branch has actively pushed forward trade cooperation between China and Spain,” it said.

China’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Friday that the country attached high importance to the case and it had asked that Spain protect the rights and interests of Chinese companies and citizens there and handle the case in accordance with the law.

($1 = 0.8986 euros)

Reporting by Julien Toyer, Paul Day and Maria Vega in MADRID, Shu Zhang in BEIJING and Adam Jourdan in SHANGHAI; Editing by Tom Hogue and Susan Fenton