(Adds detail, bank and OAG comments, background)
ZURICH, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Swiss federal prosecutors have launched a criminal investigation into whether the private bank Lombard Odier failed to prevent money laundering involving the daughter of the former Uzbek president, they said on Thursday.
The Office of the Attorney General said it had opened an investigation into the bank, a former employee and persons unknown, which suggests that the authorities do not yet know precisely who or how many people may be involved.
“The investigations are being made on the basis of information revealed by criminal investigations ... into allegations of money laundering involving suspects that include the daughter of the former president of Uzbekistan,” the OAG said in a statement.
It was confirming a report carried in Bilanz magazine.
Geneva-based Lombard Odier, founded in 1796 and owned by its partners, said it had itself reported suspicious transactions to Swiss anti-money-laundering authorities in 2012.
“The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland has been studying the facts for several years,” a Lombard Odier spokesman said. “The investigation is still ongoing and the bank is cooperating fully with the relevant authorities,” he said.
The OAG has been investigating Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of Islam Karimov, on suspicion of money laundering since 2014.
She has not been seen in public since the same year, when several Uzbek and foreign media reported that she had been put under house arrest.
She returned to Tashkent in 2013 after serving as Uzbek ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva from December 2008. She has in the past denied allegations of business impropriety against her.
The Swiss authorities have said they were investigating possible money laundering in connection with funds held in Switzerland linked to what they called alleged irregularities in Uzbekistan’s telecommunications market.
Prosecutors have frozen more than 800 million Swiss francs ($795 million) in the case.
The OAG said on Thursday it suspected shortcomings in Lombard Odier’s internal organisation.
“It is believed that due to these deficiencies, the bank was unable to prevent the commission of the criminal offences currently under investigation in the context of the Uzbek case,” its statement said.
Lombard Odier managed 223 billion Swiss francs ($220 billion) in client assets as of the end of June. ($1 = 1.0059 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill and Michael Shields in Zurich and Olzhas Auyezov in Almaty Editing by Larry King and Hugh Lawson)