A Justice Department investigation into the transfer of millions of dollars out of Mexico by the brother of the former Mexican president has thrown a spotlight on Citicorp's international private banking business.
A Citicorp spokesman declined to comment on reports that the bank helped Raul Salinas, brother of former Mexican president Carlos Salinas, to transfer more than $100 million out of Mexico to accounts in Switzerland and other countries. Raul Salinas is under arrest in Mexico, and Carlos Salinas reportedly has gone into hiding.
Up to $84 million deposited in Switzerland has been frozen pending an investigation.
"We have a long-standing policy of not discussing publicly matters related to who may or may not be a client," Citicorp said in a statement last week.
John Russell, a Justice Department spokesman in Washington, confirmed that the department is assisting Mexican and Swiss authorities as part of a criminal investigation. He declined to elaborate, but published reports say a New York grand jury has recently subpoenaed documents from Citicorp and other banks in connection with the probe.
Observers said the case is particularly tricky for Citicorp because U.S. law bars banks from helping launder funds obtained through crime, no matter where the crime was committed.