By Jesús Aguado and Emma Pinedo
MADRID (Reuters) – Four ex-employees and executives of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China’s (ICBC) Madrid branch reached a plea deal with Spanish prosecutors in a money-laundering case and accepted prison terms of between three and five months.
The prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday the accused also agreed to pay a fine totaling 22.7 million euros ($25.55 million) as part of the deal to settle the case.
In 2016 Spain’s judiciary began investigating the European management of ICBC as part of an inquiry into the alleged laundering of hundreds of millions of euros through the Madrid branch of the Chinese banking giant.
“The defendants have accepted the qualification (of the crime as money-laundering) and the sentences, which has allowed the prosecutor and the defence to ask the Court to ratify the agreement in a verdict,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. Without naming the accused, it said that Spain’s High Court held a hearing on the case on Monday.
A spokesman for the court said that the judge would have to ratify the agreement, which was considered a formality.
Under Spanish law, a prison sentence of less than two years does not usually lead to serving any time behind bars unless there are previous criminal records.
In 2017 a Reuters investigation, based on confidential case submissions and interviews with investigators and former ICBC employees, showed how a long-running Spanish inquest into alleged Chinese organised crime networks eventually led police to raid ICBC’s Madrid branch in early 2016.
Spanish judicial officials told Reuters that between 2011 and 2013, ICBC’s Madrid branch transferred about 225 million euros (£202.98 million) to China, most of it for suspected criminal networks.
ICBC said at the time that it was a “law-abiding company” and cooperating with Spanish authorities.
($1 = 0.8884 euros)
(Reporting by Jesús Aguado and Emma Pinedo with additional reporting by Belen Carreno and Angus Berwick; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Heinrich)