Julius Baer in negotiations with Santander over Venezuela operations

Pedro Gonçalves
Julius Baer in negotiations with Santander over Venezuela operations

Swiss private banking group Julius Baer is in negotiations with Spanish lender Banco Santander to transfer its book of clients in Venezuela, Reuters has reported.

The deal would reportedly be a referral agreement, enabling Santander to gain access to the clients of the Swiss bank.

It would not result in migration of portfolio or assets, the publication said.

Reuters earlier reported that the Spanish lender was in talks to acquire certain clients of Julius Baer in Venezuela.

The talks, if materialised, would enable Santander to relaunch in Venezuela. Santander has not operated in Venezuela since agreeing in 2009 to sell its stake in Banco de Venezuela to the country's government for $1.19bn.

Lately, Julius Baer's Latin America business has been under the scrutiny for the involvement of its former-employee, Matthias Krull, in a $1.2bn money laundering case connected to Venezuelan state-owned oil firm Petroleos de Venezuela. However, the bank was not charged in the case.

Switzerland's Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper reported that Baer had ended ties in April with hundreds of clients in Venezuela with less than $1.5m each in assets, and that the remaining clients there had more than $20m each in assets.

Around two months ago, Julius Baer announced plans to withdraw from Panama and Peru after a strategic review of its Latin American operations. The bank now plans to focus on Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.