October 14, 2019 / 5:55 PM / a month ago

EXCLUSIVE-Deutsche Bank took years to flag suspect Danske money flows - source

FRANKFURT/TALLINN, Oct 14 (Reuters) - Deutsche Bank did not disclose more than one million suspect money transfers with Danske Bank until February, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said, about five years after a whistleblower flagged suspicious transactions at Danske.

Deutsche sent alerts about the suspect money flows involving the Danish bank to Germany’s money laundering data authority and state prosecutors, the person said, prompting investigators to seek more information from Deutsche.

Prosecutors are now investigating whether staff or management at Deutsche sanctioned the transactions, and whether they subsequently tried to cover them up, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Deutsche did not comment on the time taken to flag the transactions to authorities, which has previously not been reported, but said it ended its relationship with Danske in 2015 and had strengthened its anti-money laundering controls.

Danske Bank was ejected from Estonia this year after admitting 200 billion euros ($220 billion) of suspicious money flowed through its branch there between 2007 and 2015.

Deutsche was dragged into the scandal because it processed the bulk of the transactions for the Danish bank, leading German prosecutors to visit Deutsche’s headquarters last month with police and a search warrant.

Asked about the case, Deutsche said in an emailed statement that it “remains committed to providing appropriate information to all authorised investigations.”

“We have considerably increased staff numbers in Anti-Financial Crime and more than tripled our staff since 2015. We invested since 2016 700 million euros in upgrading our key control functions there.”

Following the information from Deutsche, German prosecutors visited their counterparts in Estonia in recent weeks to investigate the suspect money flows further, the person said.

Prosecutors are now investigating a small fraction of the 1.1 million transfers flagged by Deutsche, involving Russia and former Soviet states in 2014 and 2015, the person added.

If investigators find that Deutsche staff or management sanctioned and covered up its involvement in the suspicious transactions, those bankers or the group itself could face criminal prosecution, the person said.

That would deal another blow to Deutsche’s reputation and a setback to Chief Executive Christian Sewing’s drive to turn around Germany’s biggest lender. (Editing by Rachel Armstrong and Mark Potter)

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