InvestaBank was not used for money laundering: regulator

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s banking regulator on Wednesday confirmed that a thorough audit of InvestaBank found no evidence of money laundering by one of its largest shareholders, clearing the path for the lender to buy Deutsche Bank’s Mexican operations.

InvestaBank's chief executive, Enrique Vilatela, had said in an interview last week the regulator had given InvestaBank a clean bill of health, and that the bank would look to resume the acquisition of Deutsche Bank's DBKGn.DE banking and securities businesses.

“We’re going put our request to the authorities before the end of March,” Vilatela said, adding that InvestaBank would pay roughly $150 million for the businesses.

InvestaBank halted the deal, announced at the end of October, after Carlos Djemal, a 25 percent stakeholder, was arrested in the United States and accused of laundering more than $100 million.

Edgar Bonilla, vice president of legal affairs for the National Banking and Securities Commission (CNBV), said in an interview that during the inspection of the bank, the regulator found smaller violations that resulted in fines of $1.3 million.

“I want to be very clear, the bank was not used to launder money for any company connected to Carlos Djemal, nor for Carlos Djemal himself, nor for any other company that has an open account at the bank,” Bonilla said.

Bonilla added that the CNBV was still keeping a close watch on the bank since its levels of liquidity were still short of the regulatory minimum.

“We’ll continue monitoring them until they fix that issue,” he said.

Vilatela said a group of investors acquired Djemal’s shares and that the institution received 360 million pesos ($19 million) in fresh capital from new and current investors, and expected to have $120 million in capital within the next few months.

InvestaBank was created in 2014 when Investa acquired the local operations of Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). The bank currently has 0.05 percent of the total revenues in the Mexican banking system.

Reporting by Noe Torres in Mexico City; Written by Dan Freed; Editing by Steve Orlofsky