The Swiss bank reportedly alerted authorities to a money transfer, sparking an investigation two years ago.
The SYZ Group has been caught up in a Swiss crime probe linked to Angola and money laundering, reports said.
A report by French-language Tribune de Geneve said authorities have frozen more than SFr1.1 billion. This follows a report by the Washington DC-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists – citing another website - that said Swiss authorities have frozen almost $900 million belonging to an Angolan business executive with ties to various regimes. The ICIJ report cited “newly released court documents”. (The Consortium was behind the various mass “leaks” of data in the Panama Papers and Paradise Papers sagas.)
"Our obligations under banking secrecy prevent us from discussing this topic. Nevertheless, we can confirm that, like any Swiss financial institution, we apply our due diligence obligations towards our clients and report any suspicions of money laundering to the relevant authorities when necessary," SYZ told WealthBriefing last Friday.
Switzerland’s public prosecutors froze seven accounts of Carlos Manuel de São Vicente and family members in December 2018 on suspicions of money laundering. The ICIJ report quoted news website Gotham City.
The case began in 2018 when Vicente’s bank, SYZ, alerted Swiss authorities to a $213 million transfer, according to court documents cited by ICIJ.
“My client strongly refutes the charges against himself,” Vicente’s Swiss lawyer, Clara Poglia, told the ICIJ. “He confirms that he has always acted according to the law as it will be demonstrated in the frame of the criminal proceedings. He considers in addition that any publication related to these proceedings violates the principle of presumption of innocence as well as his personal rights.”
Vicente took unsuccessful last-minute legal action against Gotham City to prevent publication of the news. “Gotham City’s article contains important factual mistakes,” Poglia said. She declined to say what these errors were, the ICIJ said.
Vicente, a Portuguese-Angolan citizen, is the former chairman and CEO of AAA Seguros. Under a 2001 presidential decree signed by José Eduardo dos Santos, the company received a government monopoly to insure oil sector activity in the natural resource-rich Southern African nation. AAA Seguros, which was partly owned by the national oil company, Sonangol, was dissolved in 2020.