Germany's largest financial institution, Deutsche Bank was searched by authorities Thursday in connection to the Panama Papers, suspected of helping clients set up offshore tax havens to launder funds.
Around 170 police officers, prosecutors and tax inspectors searched six Deutsche Bank offices in and around Frankfurt over money laundering allegations, the Frankfurt public prosecutor's office said in a statement.
Investigators are looking at two Deutsche Bank staff members in particular who allegedly helped clients set up offshore firms to launder money, the prosecutor's office said.
Written and electronic business documents were seized the various banks and further investigations are ongoing, the prosecutor's office also said.
The investigation was triggered after investigators reviewed so-called "Offshore-Leaks" and "Panama Papers," referring to the 2016 leak of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca documents that indicated billions in offshore laundering schemes by the wealthy.
In 2016 alone, over 900 customers were served by a Deutsche Bank subsidiary registered in the British Virgin Islands, which generated 311 million euros (US$354 million), the prosecutors said.
This isn’t the first time the German bank has been under investigation. In 2017, the bank was fined nearly $700 million for allowing money laundering. "It is the sum of incidents that give cause for serious concern," said Lisa Paus, a member of the Bundestag, the German lawmaking body. "Something seems to be basically wrong in the compliance and anti-money laundering area of the bank."
The German bank’s Global Head of Communications, Joerg Eigendorf told investors in a statement: “We were under the impression that we had already made all relevant information on the Panama Papers available to authorities. We will, of course, cooperate closely with the Frankfurt prosecutor's office because we too have an interest in clearing up the accusations quickly.”
The spokesperson added, “We have repeatedly shown in previous years that we cooperate closely with the authorities and that we are ready to do so. We will continue to do so. Once we get new information we will promptly inform you. Thank you."