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Exclusive: Santander UK Plots Jersey Sale

(c) Sky News 2012

The British arm of the giant banking group Santander (Madrid: SAN.MC - news) is reviewing the future of its Jersey-based private banking arm days after rival HSBC (LSE: HSBA.L - news) was accused of using its business there to provide accounts to convicted criminals.

I have learned that Santander UK has begun sounding out prospective buyers of Santander Private Banking Jersey, a business it inherited from its takeover of Abbey (Irish: DOY.IR - news) in 2004.

The unit manages approximately £4bn of deposits and tens of thousands of customers, according to insiders. The Spanish-owned lender has hired Gleacher Shacklock, an advisory firm, to gauge the appetite of potential bidders for its Jersey division.

People close to the situation said that Santander UK had not committed to a sale, but was exploring a series of options that included changing the structure of the business or retaining it in its current form.

It had previously conducted a similar exercise for its Isle of Man (Other OTC: MAGOF.PK - news) private banking division and elected to retain the unit, people close to the bank said.

Potential buyers of the division could include the owners of other large private banking businesses such as Investec (EUREX: INVF.EX - news) or Kleinwort Benson.

Earlier this month, HSBC found itself at the centre of a new controversy over compliance standards when it emerged that a number of individuals with criminal links were customers of its Jersey-based operation.

A list containing thousands of names had been provided to HM Revenue & Customs by a whistle-blower, dealing a further blow to HSBC just days after it was forced to hike the potential bill for breaching US anti-money laundering rules by £500m.

Santander UK declined to comment.