Spanish newspapers are digging into a spiraling investigation of alleged money laundering in Spain by a state-run Chinese bank that is world's largest financial institutional. "The Chinese Bank Is A Tool For Extracting Millions From Spain," reads Thursday's front page of Spanish dailyABC.
More than 100 Spanish police officers raided the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) in Madrid on Wednesday, arresting five top bank officials, including the Chief Director of operations in Spain. The state-owned bank has been dogged by allegations of money laundering which led to a probe into the organization by the Spanish Police, the national tax agency and Europol.
The raid was part of a police investigation dubbed Operation Snake probing funds handled by a criminal organization that allegedly passed through the bank to then be transferred to China. According to Europol, the investigation of the suspected laundering of at least 44 million euros has identified other links leading to France, Germany and Lithuania, CNN reports.
The ICBC is the largest financial institution in the world with assets exceeding three trillion dollars and operations in 41 countries. ABC suggests that the bust could cause diplomatic tensions between Spain and China as ICBC is tightly controlled by the authoritarian regime in Beijing,
"The ICBC is the extension of the powerful Chinese government in the world of finance, which gives an idea of the magnitude of the operation conducted yesterday." The Chinese Embassy in Spain stated on Wednesday that they are "following the investigation of ICBC very closely" and that "The Chinese Government always requires Chinese branches to strictly comply with the law and the provisions of both China and the country in which they operate."
The operation has also fueled nationalist sentiments in China. Exclamations of solidarity have spread throughout social media with the label "Today we are all ICBC Madrid."