French judge: Indict Leumi France on money laundering

The French public prosecutor may appeal the decision made by Investigating Judge Isabelle Prevost Desprez.

French Investigating Judge Isabelle Prevost Desprez last week ordered eight French banks, including Banque Leumi France, to be indicted on serious money laundering charges.

The decision follows months of investigations into alleged irregularities in connection with transactions between France and Israel. Last month, the French public prosecutor recommended revoking the charges against the banks; he has the authority to appeal the decision by an investigative judge.

The eight banks are French bank Societe Generale, British bank Barclays in France, American Express Paris, the BRED, Banque Leumi France, Societe Marseillaise de Credit, Lebanese bank Saradar, and the National Bank of Pakistan.

The affair was uncovered over a year ago, as part of a suspected money-laundering scheme that originated in Israel. The French authorities questioned the banks' executives, including Banque Leumi France general manager Itzhak Eyal. The money laundering is suspected to have begun in 1996.

The investigators questioned Banque Leumi France officials under warning about their activities as one of the correspondents that handled checks drawn from French banks and deposited in Bank Leumi (TASE:LUMI) accounts in Israel.

After the affair was disclosed, Bank Leumi stated that its involvement was solely technical.

Bank Leumi recently announced it was reducing its business in France and closing its branch in Paris, replacing it with a representative office. Banque Leumi France was opened in 1972.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on October 7, 2003

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