Secret documents of the US Treasury Department reveal significant failures of major international banks such as Deutsche Bank in combating money laundering after a worldwide research by numerous media partners. The US documents show that banks from all over the world have been doing business with high-risk customers for years, “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, WDR and NDR reported on Sunday evening from their so-called FinCEN files research.
Despite strict regulations, the financial institutions accepted alleged Mafiosi, fraudsters of millions and sanctioned oligarchs as customers and made transfers worth billions for these. These events were sometimes reported only very hesitantly and in some cases with years of delay.
Some of the world’s largest financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and HSBC, would have done business with dubious customers even after they had already been sanctioned for money laundering violations in the US. In numerous cases, according to the report, banks apparently undermined their own anti-money laundering standards, for example when checking new customers.
The data leak also brings the Deutsche Bank in need of explanation, it said. According to US investigators, Russian criminals and a money launderer working for terrorist groups are said to have laundered money through the Moscow branch of Deutsche Bank.
At the request of AFP on Sunday evening, the financial institution said that the “SZ” and its research partners had reported “on a number of historical topics” which, as far as they affect Deutsche Bank, were already known to the supervisory authorities. It is recognized that Deutsche Bank and other banking houses have already reacted with “rectification of defects”. “Where necessary and appropriate, we have drawn conclusions,” the statement said.
The information is the result of a joint research by numerous media partners, which is published under the name FinCEN-Files and which is based on thousands of pages of secret money laundering reports. The US online medium “Buzzfeed News” reportedly shared the documents with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and thus enabled 110 media from 88 countries to be researched worldwide. Around 400 journalists took part.
According to their own information, “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, WDR and NDR found out during their research on the FinCEN files that money launderers used the global infrastructure of Deutsche Bank for a longer period of time and to a greater extent than previously assumed. The newspaper also derived from the US documents that the security systems in Germany’s largest bank had apparently failed.
The report went on to say that the current CEO of Deutsche Bank, Christian Sewing, was “partly responsible for the fact that it was not noticed earlier how money launderers could use the bank for suspicious stock transactions”. The Corporate Audit department he headed at the time examined the processes in the conspicuous share trading in Russia in 2014 and had nothing serious to complain about. Experts specially commissioned by the bank later confirmed that the work of Sewing’s department had “serious deficiencies”.
The Deutsche Bank denied to “SZ”, WDR and NDR a direct or indirect involvement of its current CEO in the examination of the Moscow business. Sewing only submitted the overall plan for several hundred tests – so-called audits – for 2014, according to the bank.
In addition to the Deutsche Bank, the international research has also revealed omissions at numerous other major banks, writes the “SZ”. The US documents showed how well-known financial institutions had been involved in money laundering and sometimes allowed criminal networks to operate unmolested.
Deutsche Bank said on Sunday evening that leading financial institutions around the world had “invested billions of dollars” in order to “more effectively support” the authorities in the fight against money laundering. This “naturally leads to a higher number of findings” of such cases. The money house also assured that it had “invested massively in improving controls”.
ju / yb
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