The US Department of Justice (DOJ) has in the past few weeks stepped up its investigation into Deutsche Bank AG’s role in the 200 billion euro (US$220 billion) Danske Bank A/S money-laundering scandal, four people familiar with the inquiry told reporters.
One source said that the DOJ’s new line of inquiry is whether Deutsche helped move tainted money from Danske, Denmark’s largest lender, into the US.
If proven, that could lead to steep financial penalties.
Officials from the DOJ, who have been working closely with Estonian prosecutors for about a year, have also begun cooperating with Frankfurt state prosecutors, the sources said.
The Frankfurt prosecutors have been exploring Deutsche’s role in processing payments for the Danish bank.
The DOJ’s focus on Germany’s largest bank and its work with Frankfurt prosecutors have not previously been reported.
A Danske spokesman said that the bank continued to cooperate with the authorities in Estonia, Denmark, France and the US.
The DOJ and Frankfurt state prosecutors declined to comment on the US investigation, which two sources told reporters is due to be completed next year.
Deutsche Bank’s spokesman said it had significantly improved controls in the past few years.
Danske’s admission last year that suspicious payments totaling 200 billion euros from Russia and elsewhere flowed through its branch in Estonia has triggered worldwide probes.
The bulk of these payments were processed by Deutsche, sources previously told reporters.
Deutsche has already paid nearly US$700 million in fines to New York and British regulators in a separate money-laundering case involving US$10 billion in so-called mirror trades from Russia, which the DOJ is still investigating.
US investigators have spoken to current and former Deutsche compliance staff in the US who raised concerns over possible suspect transactions with supervisors, but were ignored, two people said, adding that some involved Danske.
Estonian prosecutors are sharing their findings on Danske, hoping they will share in the proceeds in the event of US fines, four people said.
One source said that Estonian prosecutors are examining more than 10 transactions involving up to US$2 billion of suspect criminal funds in total.
Reporters could not ascertain the details of those deals.
Deutsche alerted Germany’s money-laundering data authority and state prosecutors in February to more than 1 million suspect money transfers, two people said, five years after a whistle-blower raised the alarm at Danske.
Washington and Frankfurt are now asking what led to the delay and whether there were lapses as some of the contested money transfers, which were earlier singled out by compliance staff, are among those Deutsche later flagged, two people said.
Frankfurt prosecutors have also questioned Sylvie Matherat, Deutsche’s former chief regulatory officer, and the highest ranking of 10 Deutsche bankers and executives they have interviewed.
Matherat, who left Deutsche this year, and the others were interviewed as witnesses whose first-hand knowledge is being drawn on to form an overall picture, the person said.
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