The raid and search proceeding conducted a few weeks ago at the offices of the Royal Bank of Canada in Uruguay by Argentine judge Norberto Oyarbide, has caused a chain reaction and a lot of fear among the more than 10,000 Argentine clients with offshore private banking accounts in the neighboring country possessing an average of $600,000, and also amongst customers in other countries, as reported by the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais.
Some of these clients, Argentineans as well as clients from other nationalities, whose accounts are found in offshore institutions operating in Zonamerica, have already requested for their funds to be transferred to accounts abroad for fear of the recurrence of raids like the one requested by the Argentine judge on 13th June.
Judge Oyarbide requested authorization from Uruguayan authorities to conduct the operation. It so happens that the Argentine judge is in charge of a mega cause in which he is investigating millionaire money laundering maneuvers through the transfer of dozens of footballers.
As for the chain reaction and fear experienced by Argentine and foreign clients with capital in institutions operating within Zonamerica, El Pais newspaper says that according to a source who asked not to be identified, that after the raid “Argentine clients as well as clients from other countries are calling with much concern and some have specifically asked for their accounts to be withdrawn from Uruguay and taken them somewhere else .... It is not easy to be able to tell the customer that he shall not experience any problems because they have all the documentation.
“Putting myself in the shoes of a bank customer in Zonamerica, I understand how this has created suspicion and uncertainty about whether the bank is making available to third parties any information regarding their account, their name and their movements, and people do not want anything to do with that”, said the same source.
In Zonamerica, Uruguay’s most extensive free trade zone, there are currently about 60 banks and investment advisory firms in operation, including local and foreign banks which can only serve foreign clients and bank representations operating as a link between potential investors and the central office of institutions located outside the country.
We must bear in mind that customer funds in Zonamerica are not actually in Uruguay, since they use the country as "booking", as the money is actually in bonds, stocks or funds in Switzerland, USA, Germany, Austria and Singapore.
The advantage of establishing within this zone is that it is a territory which is exempt from any taxes, and where companies do not have to give the Uruguayan state explanations of any kind, neither about invoicing nor about their customers, whilst it benefits the country as an employment generator.
Argentineans have deposits totaling 2,663 million dollars which are currently in Uruguayan accounts, as 71% of the 3,751 million dollars of non-resident accounts are Argentinean. The paper highlights that 90% of that money has been declared in Argentina and that only 10% would not be, according to financial market estimates.