Deutsche Bank Panama Papers probe leads to more German raids

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BERLIN (May 15): A probe into Deutsche Bank AG prompted by the Panama Papers brought a wave of raids by Frankfurt prosecutors targeting eight wealthy individuals who may have hidden money in offshore companies.

The suspects’ homes were raided Wednesday, as were the offices of more than 20 banks, tax advisers and asset-management companies in an investigation into tax evasion. The prosecutors didn’t identify the banks, people or companies concerned, but additional information may be disclosed after the raids are completed.

The case is related to searches of Deutsche Bank in November. That probe, looking into money-laundering allegations against two bank employees, stems from the 2016 disclosures known as the Panama Papers and focuses on a former unit in the British Virgin Islands that processed 311 million euros (US$349 million) in 2016 alone. Wednesday’s raids target clients who enlisted help from the BVI unit to set up offshore companies.

Deutsche Bank is one of 11 lenders visited by investigators with a search warrant, according to a person familiar with the situation who declined to be identified because the details is still private.

“The investigations are not directed against Deutsche Bank,” Christian Streckert, a spokesman for the Frankfurt-based lender, said in a statement. “Deutsche Bank is cooperating with the public prosecutor’s office and voluntarily gives all documents requested. A search of the bank’s business premises has therefore not taken place.”

The six asset management companies subject to searches are based in Hamburg. There are also four tax advisers raided as part of the probe.

The companies raided Wednesday aren’t targets, but are being searched because information about the individuals may be be found in their files.

"The goal of the searches is finding evidence about income on which no tax was paid and to clarify the business dealings of the offshore companies," Noah Krueger, the spokesman for Frankfurt prosecutors, said in the release.

Invisible Raids

No police were spotted outside Deutsche Bank’s headquarters Wednesday, a striking difference from the November raids. Then, police cars swarmed the front of the lender’s building, leading to photos and video images broadcast around the world. The footage of rows of police cars parked in front of the bank’s two downtown Frankfurt towers in November fueled concerns about potentially expensive legal risks and sent the share price to an all-time low.

During last year’s raids, investigators obtained a list of more than 900 clients from Deutsche Bank in the Panama Papers case, people familiar with the probe said in January. The list contained the names of individuals and entities mostly located outside Germany, the people have said.

The homes of the rich clients now being probed are in the German cities of Bad Toelz, Erkrath, Hamburg, Konz, Simmerath and on Sylt, an island in the North Sea.

The Panama Papers showed that Deutsche Bank employees may have helped customers set up off-shore companies in tax havens, prosecutors said in November. Those companies were allegedly involved in tax evasion, they said, adding that 900 clients were allegedly served via the unit. Prosecutors also seized extensive data on paper and electronically, the people familiar with the matter have said.