Optima Bank Fraud investigation: The NBB reveals Details

19 June AtoZ Markets — Earlier this week, AtoZForex learned that the Belgium-based Optima Bank was declared bankrupt by the commercial court of Ghent. After the withdrawal of the Optima Bank's banking and insurance licences, due to allegations of financial irregularities. The Ghent prosecutor’s office has appointed three administrators to oversee the investigation. In the meantime, the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) released a twenty-page long report about Optima Bank Fraud investigation, on the 13th of May, 2016.

According to the report, Optima Bank has deliberately circumvented the decisions of the NBB. Optima Bank has ignored the demands of the NBB, and therefore violated the regulations. In the last five years, the board of Optima Bank ignored the orders of the NBB and managed to divert a lot of money from the bank through various ways. Aside, these violations, the NBB discovered that Optima Bank also made numerous of fake payment transactions in the past period. The Belgian news source “De Tijd”, has revealed the following findings of the NBB upon the Optima Bank Fraud investigation.

I Optima Bank ignored Dividend Ban

Since 2012, the National Bank of Belgium insisted Optima Bank to improve and revise its measures and reporting of annual revenue, profits and capital base. Yet, according to the report: “The recovery measures imposed by the regulator were only partially implemented by Optima Bank."

The NBB demanded that the profit would be fully booked to the bank’s reserves, in order to strengthen the capital. Hence, the National Bank issued a ban on Optima Bank pay out dividends. However, Optima Bank has ignored this ban. Considering that Optima Bank paid out an interim dividend of 4 million euros post the ban of the NBB.

II Money laundering through consultancy fees

The National Bank of Belgium revealed in its report that Optima Bank has set up various constructions to exploit the funds through the so-called high consultancy fees. Optima Bank channeled large amounts of funds through “non-conforming fees” to Piqueur, through making first the transactions to Piqueur’s parent company Imaco. The report indicates that one of the board members of Optima Bank, Jo Viaene received extra money through this illicit construction.

According to an earlier investigation the NBB these fake consulting agreements were deemed illegal and Optima Bank was demanded to stop issuing these constructions. However, Optima Bank ignored this decision and was discovered to still issue consultancy fees.

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III Conflicts of interest in the real estate segment

Optima Bank claims that there was a strict separation between banking and real estate activities. The bank pointed out the real estate segment was operated under the branch Optima Global Estate (OGE). In practice, the bank's interests and real estate activities were continuously diverted under various branches. As the report shows that the equity of Optima Bank was burdened by loans to Optima Group and OGE. Hence, the NBB urged Optima Bank to settle these loans as soon as possible. However, Optima Bank neglected this order as no action was ever taken.

IV Optima Bank’s Spanish subsidiary was sold for 1 Euro

Optima also had a branch in Spain, Optima Planificacíon y Patrimonial (OPFP). This particular Spanish subsidiary is part of the Optima Group. In early 2013, Optima Bank took over the branch for 2.4 million euros. However, at the end of the same year, Optima Global Estate acquired the Spanish subsidiary for only 1 euro. The 2.4 million Euro within Optima Group received from the sale of OPFP was distributed to the shareholders and directors of Optima Group, especially to Jeroen Piqueur.

V Ban on issuance of new loans to municipalities ignored

At the end of 2014, the NBB imposed a ban on Optima Bank to provide any new loans or funds to NGO’s and governmental institutions. Yet, Optima Bank continued to issue new loans with municipalities , social services, schools and hospitals.

On April 16, Optima Bank attempted to sign an agreement of 10 million euros with the Ghent university hospital, neglecting the National Bank of Belgium's orders completely. Eventually, the agreement was cancelled, due to the intervention of the NBB.

Source: De Tijd.be

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