Anglo Austrian Bank Freezes Revocation of its Banking Licence

Published: 21 November 2019

EU General CourtEU General Court in Luxembourg (Photo: katarina_dzurekova (CC BY 2.0))

By Sarunas Cerniauskas

The General Court of the European Union on Wednesday gave a reprieve to Austria’s former Meinl Bank (now called Anglo Austrian Bank), allowing it to keep its banking license pending further court action.

Last week the European Central Bank withdrew Anglo Austrian’s license. The bank immediately said it would take “legal measures” and took the issue to the General Court. The revocation order was suspended “pending the decision in the present case.”

After last week’s revocation order was announced, the Austrian Financial Market Authority stated it was “due to (the bank’s) history and the violation of due diligence over the past few years.” The precise reasons for revocation of Anglo Austrian Bank’s licence were not made public.

On Monday, OCCRP and its Austrian partners, profil and ORF, published an investigation showing that Meinl Bank had facilitated a system used by bankers in three Eastern European countries to move assets from their banks, bypassing regulation and hiding the dealings from local authorities.

The mechanism empowered by Meinl Bank was plain and simple. The Austrian bank would have granted loans to offshore companies, and the loans were secured by assets from Eastern European banks, usually deposited in their correspondent accounts at Meinl. When banks in Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia collapsed, offshore companies failed to repay the debts and Meinl took the money deposited by the fallen banks.

The scheme involved about 500 million euros, the news organizations reported. Criminal cases involving operations facilitated by Meinl Bank are ongoing in all three Eastern European countries.

Anglo Austrian Bank denies any involvement in criminal activities.