Deutsche Bank Offices In Frankfurt Raided By German Police

Nov 29, 2018
Originally published on November 29, 2018 9:30 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

German authorities raided the offices of Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt today. Police and federal prosecutors were apparently looking for evidence of money laundering. And we'll discuss this now with NPR's Jim Zarroli, who's following the story from New York. Jim, good morning.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Hi, Steve.

INSKEEP: So OK, evidence of money laundering - that's what they're looking for. What does that mean in this case?

ZARROLI: Well, this was a very large operation. At around 9 a.m., 170 law enforcement officials descended on six Deutsche Bank buildings, including the headquarters in Frankfurt. They took documents and electric files.

What we know is that they are targeting two suspects who are not named. They're ages 50 and 46. And they're looking to see if others - other people at the bank were involved, too. And this bank - the bank says this has to do with the Panama Papers.

INSKEEP: OK. Would you remind us what they are?

ZARROLI: Yeah. The Panama Papers were this huge collection of documents that were taken from a Panamanian law firm called Mossack Fonseca. They were leaked to an international consortium of journalists.

Mossack Fonseca was famous for helping clients set up offshore accounts and shell corporations. Now, these are, you know, legal, but they can often be used to avoid paying taxes or just to escape the eye of regulators. I mean, they're often used by criminals who've tried - trying to hide money that they've gotten illegally. And the law firm would help set up these accounts in tax havens, like the British Virgin Islands, for instance.

And this - when these documents were released, it was just a huge scandal because it turned out that a number of the clients were connected to very powerful people, like Russian President Vladimir Putin or the president of Syria or officials from Argentina or lots of countries. And it really shined a light on how international tax shelters worked. It really was a big scandal.

INSKEEP: OK. So we already have this huge trove of information, and now it appears that investigators are going for more from Deutsche Bank. What is the bank saying about all this?

ZARROLI: It says it's cooperating with authorities, as it is in our interest, as well, to clarify the facts. It says, we have already provided the authorities with all the relevant information regarding the Panama Papers. It also says it will try to provide more information to the press as it becomes available. The raid is expected to last hours and even go into Friday.

INSKEEP: Jim, I feel obliged to note one other thing, and also note it very, very carefully. President Trump's name has been connected in the past with Deutsche Bank. This is a bank that he was involved in lawsuits over. This is a bank that he borrowed money from. President Trump's name has not come up in any way in this particular raid, or in this investigation, has it?

ZARROLI: No, it has not. Not - there's no sense at all that he's connected to this. Deutsche Bank was the only bank that would lend - only major bank that would lend to Donald Trump in the 1990s after he went through a series of bankruptcies. So that's always been sort of interesting to investigators. You know, why was Deutsche Bank willing to do that when others weren't?

And this is a - this whole scandal has really just furthered the hurting the reputation of the bank. And Democrats have promised to look into the money laundering.

INSKEEP: Oh, when they take over the House of Representatives. Jim, thanks so much.

ZARROLI: You're welcome.

INSKEEP: NPR's Jim Zarroli. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.