Riggs Bank yesterday suspended a longtime senior executive as a result of an ongoing internal review of the company's handling of millions of dollars in secret accounts for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Robert C. Roane, who spent his entire 25-year career at Riggs and ran its sister bank in London from 1995 through 1999, is the second Riggs executive to be suspended in connection with the multiple ongoing federal investigations of the bank's relationship with Pinochet and other diplomatic clients.
In a written statement, Riggs said an executive vice president had been put on administrative leave "pending further collection and review of relevant information." It did not name the executive, but sources confirmed it was Roane. The sources spoke only on condition of anonymity because personnel matters were involved. Roane, 48 and the father of two, was well-regarded at the company, according to the sources. Roane -- who will be paid while on leave, according to sources -- could not be reached for comment.
Roane was suspended for possible violations of internal company policies, sources familiar with the matter said. A June report released by the Senate permanent subcommittee on investigations raised questions about one transaction in particular that involved the London branch, detailing a March 1999 $1.6 million transfer of Pinochet funds between Riggs's London and D.C. banks that appeared designed to hide the owner of the funds. The report, however, did not name anyone involved in handling the transaction.
Last month Riggs officials placed R. Ashley Lee, an executive vice president and Riggs Bank's former chief bank examiner, on paid leave until a Justice Department investigation into whether he violated government ethics rules is resolved.
Lee, who retired as a bank examiner with the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) in 2002, became a subject of intense scrutiny this summer by congressional investigators and the Treasury Department for his role in a decision not to include results of an OCC investigation of Riggs and Pinochet in the Riggs federal case file.
Riggs began its internal investigation last month, a few weeks after a Senate committee probe disclosed Riggs's involvement with Pinochet and his efforts to conceal the source and whereabouts of his wealth.
Riggs Bank investigators have found evidence of possible criminal activities by some former employees who managed Pinochet accounts and have referred their findings to federal prosecutors, who are conducting a wide-ranging review of Riggs, its foreign customers and long-standing violations by the bank of laws designed to prevent money laundering.
In May, bank regulators fined Riggs a record $25 million for those violations.