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A money laundering probe stemming from the "Panama Papers" has led police to Deutsche Bank, according to authorities. Prosecutors believe the bank helped clients "transfer money from criminal activities" to tax havens.
Federal police on Thursday raided the Frankfurt offices of Deutsche Bank. The Frankfurt prosecutor's office said the raids stemmed from an investigation into suspected money laundering at the German bank.
About 170 law enforcement agents took part in the operation. The investigation revolves around multiple Deutsche Bank employees, including two believed to still be working at the financial institution.
Deutsche Bank said it was "fully cooperating" with authorities. "The case is related to the Panama Papers," a spokesperson said.
According to prosecutors, Deutsche Bank is suspected of helping some 900 customers set up offshore shell companies in tax havens to "transfer money from criminal activities." They said some €311 million ($354 million) are believed to have been laundered, citing information gleaned from the so-called Panama Papers.
Markus Meinzer, financial secrecy director at the Tax Justice Network, told DW he was "surprised that German officials would finally take action" on information garnered from the Panama Papers.
"It has been two years that they've been analyzing these files," Meinzer said. "We have seen in other situations that German prosecutors took very long to take action" against tax avoidance schemes and financial crimes.
The Panama Papers data leak comprised some 11.5 million documents, which were leaked anonymously to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung in 2015. At least 28 German entities were identified in the leak, according to reports at the time, including Deutsche Bank.
Deutsche Bank has come under increased scrutiny for lax anti-money laundering mechanisms. In September, German financial regulator BaFin formally ordered the bank to do more to combat money laundering in its institutions.
BaFin also assigned an auditing firm to assist the bank in meeting regulatory requirements, saying Deutsche Bank needed to "take appropriate internal safeguards."
Deutsche Bank has acknowledged that its anti-money laundering efforts have fallen short of financial rules. In August, it confirmed that even after it was fined for helping Russian clients launder some $10 billion (€8.8 billion), its mechanisms to stop such criminal activity were still inefficient.
ls/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa)