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Mar 27, 2019

Treacherous Waters Ahead for Atlantic International Bank?

There are more questions than answers to the legal and financial troubles looming over Atlantic International Bank Limited.   Reports reaching our news desk tonight are that AIBL is facing serious crisis in the offshore sector, following a civil suit filed in Michigan, United States and is allegedly facing voluntary liquidation. The signage at the headquarters located at the foot of the BelCan Bridge was no longer there.  Late this evening, the Central Bank issued a three-point statement seeking to avert panic.  The bank’s troubles, we understand, are on the heels of the Sanctuary Belize scandal which broke in November 2018 when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission discovered that a scam was being facilitated through the phony real estate company.  The mastermind behind the scam was identified as Andris Pukke, who directed the operation from behind bars. More than a thousand persons were said to have paid five hundred thousand U.S. dollars each toward the investment project. The civil action named Atlantic International Bank Limited, saying that the bank has assisted and facilitated in the TSR violations and that at all times “Atlantic International knew, or reasonably should have known that it acts in furtherance of its unlawful coordination with SBE in violation of the TSR substantially affect the United States.”  Those financial transactions provided to personal and corporate clients were being handled by AIBL.  Despite the bank coming forward to clear its name in any wrongdoing, the company remained embattled.  The current situation raises serious concerns in respect of correspondent banking services in Belize merely months after the closure of Choice Bank.  On Tuesday, News Five received credible information of new developments taking place at its head office here in Belize City that could affect operations at all four branches countrywide in the days ahead.  In November of last year, PM Barrow spoke of the challenges faced by Atlantic International in the aftermath of the Sanctuary Belize brouhaha.

 

Dean Barrow

Prime Minister Dean Barrow [File: November 22nd, 2018]

“With respect to the particular difficulties that Atlantic International Bank Limited is facing, I just want to express the sincere hope that they will be able to work through the difficulties with this American federal agency.  People should certainly recollect that this is not a criminal complaint, it’s a civil liability type proceeding, but it is nevertheless, extremely serious.  When we talk about AIBL, we’re talking not just about a bank that has been able to entrench itself in our offshore banking sector, a bank that has had a stellar reputation, we’re talking about the fact that locals are in the main the owners of that bank.  So of course, it strikes me that all Belizeans will want to wish the bank well.  In terms of exactly how they are going to handle the situation, really that is a matter about which I think they should speak to the media and the public.”

 

This evening’s release from Central Bank states that it has “received certain information and has initiated remedial actions to protect the interests of depositors and customers.” The bank says it has not undertaken any actions relative to the operations of Atlantic International Bank Limited; the matter continues to receive the attention of Central Bank and the public is assured that Central Bank is assessing the situation closely and will act as appropriate.


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