The Swiss National Bank yesterday said its year-long investigation into alleged violations of its banking regulations by Citibank has ended without any conclusion.
The probe, stemming from charges made by a former officer in Citibank's Paris office, centered on allegations that the New York bank was trading currency between its own branches as a means of getting around various currency control and tax laws in several countries.
In an interview published yesterday by the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, Swiss National Bank president Fritz Leutwiler and "we can't see concretely that it was the intention of these [Citibank] operations to circumvent our regulations."
He acknowledged that some of the bank's operations were not fully compatible with Swiss currency protection laws, but added that the central bank could not prove that violations were conscious.
"It isn't completely clear if [the questionable activity] was done to circumvent regulations or just a continuation of normal practices" Leutwiler said.
In New York, a Citibank spokesman said the bank was "naturally pleased that the Swiss banking authorities have substantiated our earlier statements. Citibank did not consciously violate Swiss banking violations."
The Citibank employe, David Edwards, had alleged that the bank traded currency between its branches at preset rates of exchange, thus allowing it to increase the profits of its branches in countries where the tax bite on profits was low, while at the same time decreasing profits in other countries that taxed such earnings.
Most countries have regulations ordering all currency transactions to be made at prevailing rates.
But Leutwiler said the Swiss bank could not determine if the rates used in the Citibank transactions were prevailing rates or not. The bank only keeps a record of the date of transactions, not the minute or second they took place, Leutwiler said.
Edwards had also alleged through magazine articles and in interviews that several banks could, and in some cases did, manipulate the price of the dollar by orchestrating large-scale currency buying or selling sprees.
The Justice Department here opened an investigation following those allegations. A justice spokesman said yesterday that the investigation is continuing.