German Police Raid Deutsche Bank In ‘Panama Papers’ Probe

Police vehicles are parked at Deutsche Bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt on November 29, 2018. German prosecutors raided several Deutsche Bank offices in the Frankfurt area on November 29, 2018 over suspicions of money laundering based on revelations from the 2016 “Panama Papers” data leak. Boris Roessler / dpa / AFP

 

German prosecutors raided several Deutsche Bank offices in the Frankfurt area Thursday over suspicions of money laundering based on revelations from the 2016 “Panama Papers” data leak.

Prosecutors said they were investigating allegations that Germany’s biggest lender helped clients set up offshore companies in tax havens to “transfer money from criminal activities” to Deutsche Bank accounts.

The raid was a new blow to the financial institution that has been hammered by a string of scandals linked to its pre-2008 crisis attempts to compete with Wall Street investment banking giants.

Some 170 police officers and investigators from the Frankfurt prosecutor’s office searched the bank’s headquarters as well as four other offices and one private home.

Deutsche Bank said it would “cooperate closely” with the prosecutors but added that it had “already provided the authorities with all the relevant information regarding Panama Papers”.

The Panama Papers scandal that erupted in 2016 with a massive data leak from Panamanian legal firm Mossack Fonseca exposed large-scale tax evasion, laying bare how the world’s wealthy and powerful stashed their assets in offshore businesses.

Deutsche Bank was among hundreds of financial institutions whose names cropped up in the media reports.

The Frankfurt prosecutors said their probe was focussed on two Deutsche Bank employees aged 50 and 46, and that they were also looking at several unnamed senior staff members.

Based on information from the Panama Papers, the suspects are accused of “failing to report suspicions of money laundering” linked to offshore firms involved in tax fraud “even though there was sufficient evidence” to suggest illegal activity, prosecutors said in a statement.

The Handelsblatt financial daily, citing sources close to the matter, reported that those targeted in the probe work at Deutsche’s compliance unit and its private wealth banking arm.

Frankfurt prosecutor Nadja Niesen said one of Deutsche Bank’s offshore branches on the British Virgin Islands handled transaction volumes worth 311 million euros ($354 million) for more than 900 clients.

“There is currently suspicion that most of the money stems from foreign tax offences,” she said, adding that the probe covered the period between 2013 and 2018.

Shares in Deutsche Bank closed down 3.4 per cent at 8.30 euros, making them the worst performing stock on a DAX blue-chip index that was down 0.01 per cent.

‘Lax money laundering checks’ 

The raids are the latest embarrassment for embattled Deutsche Bank, which has repeatedly been rapped by regulators for lax money laundering controls.

Markus Meinzer, director of the Financial Secrecy Tax Justice Network, said the “raid is long overdue because the Panama Papers have amply illustrated how offshore law firms cooperated with banks in setting up structures with one single aim: to help clients hide their true identities.”

“As banks in Germany manage roughly three trillion euros of interest yielding assets, the potential for abuse is enormous… Germany owes to the world to clamp down on this dark side of its economy.”

In September, Germany’s financial supervisor BaFin took the unusual step of embedding auditors from KPMG at Deutsche to monitor the bank’s progress in battling illegal transactions such as money laundering, terrorist financing and dealings with organised crime.

In 2017, Deutsche already had to pay a fine of almost $630 million after an investigation by British and American authorities into laundering of money originating in Russia.

Soon afterwards, the US Federal Reserve ordered a further fine of $41 million over gaps in the bank’s money laundering surveillance.

Deutsche Bank has also come under scrutiny over its activities as a correspondent for scandal-plagued Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest lender.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg News had reported that Deutsche was the unnamed bank a Danske whistleblower said had handled almost $150 billion of suspect transactions originating in the Danish firm’s Estonian branch.

Deutsche Bank is in the throes of a major restructuring plan, with 7,000 jobs to go by the end of 2019.

The bank said at the end of October that it expected to report a net profit for the first time since 2014, not least because no legal settlements in the hundreds of millions or even billions were on the horizon as in previous years.

AFP

Panama Papers’ Law Firm Shuts Down Operations

File photo of foreign currency to illustrate the story.

The law firm at the heart of the “Panama Papers” global tax evasion scandal that brought down two world leaders announced Wednesday it would shut down operations, citing negative press and what it called unwarranted action by authorities.

“Reputational deterioration, the media campaign, the financial consequences and irregular actions by some Panamanian authorities have caused irreparable damage, resulting in the total ceasing of public operations at the end of this month,” Mossack Fonseca said in a statement.

But it added a smaller group would continue working to address requests from authorities and other public and private groups.

Last August, co-founder Jurgen Mossack acknowledged the firm had closed most of its offices abroad after its damaged credibility caused business to flounder.

April 3, 2016 marked the beginning of the “Panama Papers” scandal — a leak of 11.5 million files from Mossack Fonseca’s digital archive that revealed how wealthy and influential figures across the world had created offshore businesses to safeguard assets.

The information was obtained by German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, who shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It was released as a searchable database, with revelations continuing to be unearthed to this day.

Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson was forced to resign after it was revealed his family had offshore accounts — while former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif was disqualified for life from office after being implicated in the documents.

Other figures implicated included former British premier David Cameron, football star Lionel Messi, Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar, to name but a few.

At least 150 investigations were opened in 79 countries to examine possible tax evasion and money laundering, according to the US-based Center for Public Integrity.

AFP

UK Queen’s Private Estate Invested In Offshore Funds – Documents

Millions of pounds from the private estate of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II have been invested in offshore tax haven funds, a huge new leak of financial documents revealed on Sunday.

Around £10 million ($13 million, €11.3 million) of the Queen’s private money was placed in funds held in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda, according to the leaked papers, which were first reported in Britain by the BBC and the Guardian newspaper.

They reported the funds reinvested the money in an array of businesses, including controversial rent-to-buy retailer, brighthouse, which has been accused of exploiting the poor, and a chain of alcohol stores which later went bankrupt.

The investments, which were entirely legal, were made through the Duchy of Lancaster, which provides the monarch with an income and handles investments of her vast estate and remain current, the media outlets said.

There is no suggestion that the Queen’s private estate acted illegally or failed to pay any taxes due.
But the leaks may raise questions over whether it is appropriate for the British head of state to invest in offshore tax havens.

A spokeswoman for the Duchy of Lancaster said: “All of our investments are fully audited and legitimate.”

“We operate a number of investments and a few of these are with overseas funds.”

The spokeswoman added that one of the fund investments represents only 0.3 percent of the total value of the Duchy.

Meanwhile, the money put into Brighthouse “is through a third party”, and equates to just 0.0006 percent of the Duchy’s value, she added.

The investments emerged as part of a new leak — dubbed the Paradise Papers – by the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which was behind the 2015 Panama Papers release.

The latest haul contains 13.4 million documents mainly from Appleby, an offshore law firm with offices in Bermuda and beyond, which were first obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and shared with the ICIJ and partner media outlets.

Panama Papers: Pakistan PM, Nawaz Sharif Awaits Ruling

Courtesy: dawn.com

Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, will know his political fate on Thursday as the country’s Supreme Court is set to issue its ruling on corruption claims against him.

Questions arose over his family’s business dealings when three of his children were linked to offshore accounts in the Panama papers leaks.

Mr Sharif and his family have however denied any wrongdoing, dismissing the claims as politically motivated.

The government also said that it is confident that Mr Sharif will be cleared.

The case has made headlines in recent months and stocks briefly fell on the announcement that a decision would be delivered later today.

FIFA Officials Arrive Mexico City For World Congress

Fifa, Mexico City, World CongressFIFA officials are arriving in Mexico City for preliminary talks ahead of the world football body’s congress.

The world governing body, aims to steer the sport out of the crisis in which dozens of FIFA officials have been indicted in a corruption scandal.

The main focus of FIFA’s annual congress, which begins on Friday, will be bringing its 209 member football associations up to speed with recent reforms designed to stamp out corruption.

The congress will also decide on applications for membership from Kosovo and, possibly, Gibraltar, and will also be asked to approve a revised budget for the 2015-2018 cycle to reflect Gianni Infantino’s electoral promises.

Panama Papers: David Cameron Releases Tax Returns Information

David CameronPapers released by British Prime Minister, David Cameron, revealed that he paid almost £76,000 in tax on an income of more than £200,000 in 2014-15.

Mr Cameron also earned £46,899 in rent on the London family home.

The documents show that he inherited £300,000 when his father died, and the next year was given two payments of £100,000 by his mother to balance out the legacy.

Mr Cameron announced a new task force to investigate tax-dodging allegations.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn said that the matter highlighted “a whole ethos” and how the very wealthy handled their tax affairs, adding he would publish his own tax return “very, very soon”.

On Saturday, the Prime Minister admitted he could have better handled the row over his financial affairs.

This followed a week of questions and successive statements over whether Mr Cameron had owned and sold units in an offshore fund run by his late father, Ian Cameron.

Details of the Blairmore Holdings fund had been contained in a leak of 11 million documents, known as the Panama Papers.

President Putin Discredits Link To Panama Papers

Vladimir Putin on Panama PapersRussian President, Vladimir Putin, has denied “any element of corruption” over the Panama Papers leaks.

His disclaimer followed the leak of millions of documents from a Panama based law firm – Mossack Fonseca, showing how it helped some clients evade tax and avoid sanctions.

Reacting to the allegation, the Russian President said that his opponents were trying to destabilise Russia.

The papers purportedly revealed a number of offshore companies owned by close associates of the Russian President, alleging that the companies may have been used for money laundering.

Meanwhile, President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela, said that he would create an international panel to help improve transparency in its offshore financial industry.

BBC says several countries are investigating possible financial crimes by the rich and powerful in the outcome of the leak.

President Varela also promised to work with other countries over the revelations.

FIFA President Denies Links With Leaked Panama Papers

FIFA PresidentFIFA President, Gianni Infantino, has denied wrongdoing after leaked Panama papers suggested he signed off on a contract with two businessmen who have since been accused of bribery by the FBI.

Hugo and Mariano Jinkis bought TV rights for UEFA Champions League football and immediately sold them on for almost three times the price.

The 2006 contract was signed off by Infantino when he was a UEFA Director.

Infantino says he is “dismayed” that his “integrity is being doubted”.

News of the contract came to light after 11 million documents were leaked from the Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca.

The offices of European football’s governing body were searched by Swiss police after ex-Secretary-General, Gianni Infantino was named in papers leaked from the Panamanian law firm.

Meanwhile UEFA says it is giving police all relevant documents in its possession.