FRANKFURT: German prosecutors raided several Deutsche Bank offices in the Frankfurt area on Thursday over suspicions of money laundering based on revelations from the 2016 Panama Papers data leak.

Prosecutors said they were investigating allegations that Germany’s biggest lender helped clients set up offshore companies in tax havens to “transfer money from criminal activities” to Deutsche Bank accounts.

The latest raid was a new blow to the financial institution that has been hammered by a string of scandals linked to its pre-2008 crisis attempts to compete with Wall Street investment banking giants.

Some 170 police officers and investigators from the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office were searching six of the bank’s premises in and around the city, the prosecutors said in a statement.

Deutsche Bank said it was “fully cooperating” with the authorities on the case which it said was “related to the Panama Papers”.

The Panama Papers scandal that erupted in 2016 with a massive data leak from Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca exposed large-scale tax evasion, laying bare how the world’s wealthy and powerful stashed their assets in offshore businesses.

Deutsche Bank was among hundreds of financial institutions whose names cropped up in the media reports.

The Frankfurt prosecutors said their probe was focussing on two Deutsche Bank employees aged 50 and 46, as well as several unnamed senior staff members.

Based on information from the Panama Papers, they are accused of “failing to report suspicions of money laundering” linked to offshore firms involved in tax evasion “even though there was sufficient evidence” to suggest illegal activity, prosecutors said.

Prosecutor Nadja Niesen said one of Deutsche Bank’s offshore branches on the British Virgin Islands handled transactions worth $354 million for more than 900 clients. “There is currently suspicion that most of the money stems from foreign tax offences.”

Shares in Deutsche Bank were down 3.4 per cent at 8.3 euros in the early afternoon trading, making them the worst performing stock on the DAX blue-chip index.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2018