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Friday, February 26, 2016, 09:43

ICBC urges Spain to free staff

By Reuters

HONG KONG/MADRID - China's biggest bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) , has called on Spanish authorities to release three of its workers being held in jail as a court investigates money laundering allegations at its Madrid branch.

A Spanish judge's decision to grant bail to only three out of six staff detained after a raid on ICBC's Madrid offices last week was incomprehensible, it said in a statement on Thursday.

The Chinese bank had not previously commented on the case beyond stating it was cooperating with the authorities and always strictly implemented money laundering regulations.

The Spanish investigation is centred on allegations of funds transferred by a criminal group via the bank to China.

Six people were arrested as part of the probe and jailed, a precautionary measure allowed under Spanish law while investigating judges work on a case. Three were released after paying bail of 100,000 euros (US$110,340).

Spanish courts can refuse bail on the grounds that a person could be a flight risk, or if they are concerned that evidence might be destroyed.

ICBC said one of those detained was a former chairman of the bank's Madrid branch, who had been transferred to Luxembourg and had returned to Spain on Feb 17 when the police raid began.

"If he really wanted to abscond, he wouldn't have travelled from a place outside Spanish jurisdiction ... back to Madrid," ICBC said, adding that one of the female workers still in jail was suffering from poor health.

A spokesman for Madrid's judicial authorities declined to comment. A legal source familiar with the case said ICBC could file an appeal to contest the judge's decisions. Spain's foreign ministry also declined to comment.

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