UPDATE: Money-laundering ‘crackdown’ closes currency exchanges throughout Portugal

The Bank of Portugal has ordered the suspension of all operations at Money One and Transfex currency exchanges as police launch a huge investigation into drug-trafficking and money-laundering potentially linked to international terrorism.

As 150 agents delve into the nitty-gritty of transactions at outlets of Money One and Transfex, officers managed to foil what they now know was one of many trips made into Portugal from Spain in cars “with false bottoms, loaded with millions”.

It’s news that in a wider context follows the closing down of currency exchange outlets throughout Kenya in a bid to crack down on money laundering by Somali terrorist group Al-Shabab.

The bottom line is that these currency exchange outlets – of which two Money One outlets can be found in the Algarve, in Quarteira and Albufeira – are open to abuse “for the circulation of money of illicit origin”.

This is what the Bank of Portugal is trying to ascertain now, as over 16 exchanges, most of them in the Greater Lisbon area, are under orders to cease trading.

Público reports that the BdP “guarantees” that in the last five years there has not been one incidence of the suspension of activity of financial institutions for reasons exclusively related to the prevention of money-laundering or the financing of terrorism.

This current suspension will be maintained until BdP has either decided the exchanges can reopen or that “suspension has to be substituted for another measure”, the paper adds.

Meantime, arrests are being made. Five people were arrested by police at the Spanish border, and investigators have discovered what they think was a “mole” at the Bank of Portugal.

The man has since been suspended, with the Bank saying it will now open its own inquiries.

Elsewhere, Diário de Notícias writes that Banco BIC (largely Angolan owned) is under the spotlight for facilitating the deposit of “thousands of euros in cash” without ever having sounded the alert over the possibility of money-laundering.

By NATASHA DONN [email protected]