Germany’s largest bank Deutsche Bank is no stranger to scandals. But the leaked FinCEN files suggest the bank was aware it was facilitating suspicious transactions amounting to over $1 trillion dollars, including for a period after it had promised to clean up its act.
The FinCEN files are a huge cache of secret reports detailing suspicious financial activity, filed by banks to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the US Treasury Department (USTD).
BuzzFeed News obtained the files and shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Over the past 16 months, 400 journalists from 88 countries have been investigating the documents.
German bank reports over half of all suspicious activity
Deutsche Bank accounts for 62% of all Suspicious Activities Reports (SARs) filed to FinCEN in the leaked documents.
These SARs reflect the concerns of watchdogs within banks and are not necessarily evidence of any criminal conduct or wrongdoing. Financial institutions operating in the US are required to file these reports with the USTD, and failure to do so can result in penalties.
Between 1999 and 2017, $2 trillion (€1.68 trillion) in transactions were flagged by financial institutions’ internal compliance officers as suspicious. Reasons include possibly money laundering, sanctions violations or other criminal activities.
Of these, $1.3 trillion (€1.09 trillion) worth of transactions passed through Deutsche Bank, which reported the activities to FinCEN.
Deutsche Bank previously fined hundreds of millions
This is not the first time Deutsche Bank has been implicated in suspicious money transfers. In 2015 it agreed to a $258 million fine for violating US sanctions.
A probe by US and New York banking regulators found the bank had moved $10.9 billion (€9.2 billion) on behalf of Iranian, Libyan, Syrian, Burmese and Sudanese financial institutions sanctioned by the US between 1999 and 2006. The bank was accused of carrying out transactions for its customers using “non-transparent methods and practices” to disguise its actions.
“Since then we have terminated all business with parties from the countries involved,” a Deutsche Bank spokeswoman said at the time.
Continued involvement in suspicious money transfers
The FinCEN Files suggest that Deutsche Bank continued to move money for people and companies deemed suspicious, as indicated by SAR filings from the bank, after the big 2015 settlement.
One case that stands out is that of Reza Zarrab, an Iranian-Turkish gold trader. He pleaded guilty in 2017 in a US federal court to helping Iran evade sanctions.
Deutsche Bank’s US affiliate, Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas (TCA), submitted an SAR about a company with close ties to Zarrab to FinCEN in March 2017. The report states that the company, Nadir Döviz, which is involved in the gold trade, had…