US orders Daiwa Bank shutdown

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The Independent Online

New York



Daiwa Bank in New York, which is embroiled in a $1.1bn bond trading scandal, was ordered last night to shut down its entire American operations and face conspiracy and fraud charges which, if proven, could mean fines of more than $1bn.

The authorities accused the Japanese bank of attempting to cover up trading losses and concealing its activities from regulators.

If found guilty of the 24 separate charges Daiwa could face fines up to $1.3bn, the highest penalty ever imposed on a US financial institution.

The manager of Daiwa's New York branch, Mashiro Tsuda, was due to appear in court last night on charges of conspiracy and cover-up. If found guilty, he could face up to eight years in prison.

Daiwa and several of its senior executives are accused of trying to conceal from US banking regulators the activities of a former vice president of the bank, Toshihide Iguchi, who pleaded guilty in New York early last month to losing $1.1bn in trading US bonds over 12 years.

Announcing the new charges yesterday, US Attorney Mary Jo White alleged that bank executives tried to hide what had happened from US authorities during a period from mid-July, when they first received a confession from Mr Iguchi, until late September. As part of the effort, Mr Tsuda told Mr Iguchi to erase the computer disc on which had stored the confession.

Daiwa Bank announced simultaneously that it was co-operating with the order to close all its US offices by 2 February 1996.

"Withdrawal from the United States is regrettable but necessary," said Takashi Kaiho, president of Daiwa Bank.

The bank also announced a restructuring of international operations, with the loss of 2,600 jobs. Many operations to be closed were acquired from Lloyds Bank in 1990.

The bank is accused of repeatedly misleading bank examiners over a period starting in the late 1980s. Charges include failing to separate its settlements office in lower Manhattan, where Mr Iguchi worked, and its mid-town trading offices. As part of this deception, the bank would disperse bond traders whenever US regulators paid a visit and disguise their trading room as a store, Ms White alleged.

The authorities in Tokyo areconsidering closing all Daiwa Bank's foreign exchange operations. Seven weeks after the scandal broke, the bank looks increasingly isolated from the Japanese financial establishment. A plan to improve the bank's internal inspection systems was publicly rejected by the Ministry of Finance, an indication of its anger at Daiwa's handling of the affair.