Latvia's Rietumu Banka has said that it "strongly disagrees" with a French court's decision that it enabled a "large scale" tax evasion scheme and intends to challenge the ruling.
The court of first instance in Paris found in a ruling made on July 6 that Rietumu Banka helped clients to evade tax and launder money worth at least EUR200m (USD228m) by utilizing corporate structures located in offshore jurisdictions.
The bank was consequently fined EUR80m by the court and barred from operating in France for five years. Its chairman and president was also handed a four-year suspended prison sentence.
In a statement released shortly after the ruling, Rietumu Banka stressed that it cooperated fully with French judicial authorities during the investigation and the trial, but it strongly denied any involvement in a tax evasion scheme.
"We will carefully examine the full text of the decision and together with our attorneys decide about further actions. At this moment it can be said that we strongly disagree with the decision and this decision will be appealed," the bank stated.
"We have never been involved in the tax evasion and neither the bank, nor its President personally had any interest in these actions. Therefore the imposed fine of EUR80m and sanctions against the President of the bank appear widely ungrounded," it added.
The bank emphasized that it is under no obligation to pay the fine until the legal proceedings are concluded, which could take another two to three years.