Deutsche Bank raided by police in money-laundering probe

For the beleaguered German lender, the raid adds to a panoply of headaches

FRANKFURT AM MAIN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 29: Police officers walk to the corporate headquarters of Deutsche Bank on November 29, 2018 in Frankfurt, Germany. German law enforcement and tax authorities raided the offices today, reportedly over suspicions of tax evasion and money laundering. (Photo by Thomas Lohnes/Getty Images)
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German authorities descended on Deutsche Bank, including its downtown Frankfurt headquarters, in a coordinated raid related to a money-laundering investigation.

More than six police vehicles, their blue lights flashing, pulled up to Deutsche Bank’s main offices shortly before 9 am, in an operation involving about 170 officers. The main suspects were two bank employees who were not identified beyond their ages - 50 and 46. Authorities were also looking at whether others might have been involved. The bank said it was cooperating in what prosecutors described as a continuing investigation.

For the beleaguered German lender, the raid adds to a panoply of headaches - commercial, regulatory and legal - facing chief executive Christian Sewing and chairman Paul Achleitner. The stock has lost almost half its value this year, after sliding about 3 per cent on Thursday. The cost of insuring its junior debt against losses jumped 11 basis points to 383 basis points, the highest in two years, according to data compiled by CMA.

“This must be associated with criminal behavior and not just a trivial offense,” said Stefan Mueller chief executive officer of DGWA, an investment advisory boutique based in Frankfurt. He believes the bank will now be paralysed for months until it becomes clear how it will be effected by new potential fines. “Maybe this time, Achleitner will fall. The bank needs fresh blood to make a radical cut at its management.”

The investigation stems from revelations in the Panama Papers, a collection of documents leaked in 2016 from Mossack Fonseca, a Panama-based law firm that created shell companies to facilitate tax avoidance. At the time, Deutsche Bank severed ties with a Cypriot lender partly owned by VTB Group that was identified in the reporting.

The subsequent investigations from the Panama Papers exposed evidence Deutsche Bank helped clients set up off-shore accounts, prosecutors said. The officials said the Thursday raid wasn’t related to its role as a correspondent bank for money laundering at Denmark’s Danske Bank.

The German lender may have helped clients in setting up offshore companies in tax havens. Money obtained illegally may have been transferred to accounts at Deutsche Bank, which failed to report the suspicions that the accounts may have been used to launder money, Frankfurt prosecutors said.

In an emailed statement, Deutsche Bank confirmed that police are investigating at several German locations in relation to Panama Papers, and said it is fully cooperating with authorities.

The timing of the raid inflicts more pain on Deutsche Bank after a series of setbacks and repeated failures in keeping misconduct in check have pushed the shares to all-time lows. Investor worries have mounted over its role as a correspondent bank in the multi-billion-dollar money-laundering scandal at Danske, and Germany’s markets regulator has taken the unprecedented step of appointing a monitor to oversee the firm’s efforts to improve money-laundering and terrorism-financing controls.