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Deutsche Bank’s latest headache: Its role in Malaysia’s 1MDB scandal

Posted at 7:09 AM, Jul 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-11 09:09:34-04

The US Justice Department’s probe into Malaysia’s multi-billion dollar embezzlement scandal has explored the role played by Goldman Sachs. Now investigators are scrutinizing another lender: Deutsche Bank.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that the US agency is investigating whether Deutsche Bank violated foreign corruption or anti-money laundering laws in its work with Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.

The Justice Department claims that conspirators misappropriated $4.5 billion from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund to buy jewelry, fine art and real estate, as well as to fund bribes and kickbacks to foreign officials.

Some of the money is also said to have gone to the production of the Hollywood film “The Wolf of Wall Street.”

The 1MDB fund borrowed $1.2 billion from a consortium of banks led by Deutsche Bank in 2014. More than $850 million was allegedly diverted by conspirators, according to court documents previously filed by US prosecutors.

The German bank’s relationship with 1MDB goes back to 2009, according to the documents.

Deutsche Bank, in a statement to CNN Business, said that it’s “cooperated fully with all regulatory and law enforcement agencies that have made inquiries relating to 1MDB.”

“As stated in asset forfeiture complaints filed by the US Department of Justice, 1MDB made ‘material misrepresentations and omissions to Deutsche Bank officials’ in connection with 1MDB’s transactions with the bank,” a spokesperson said. “This is consistent with the bank’s own findings in this matter.”

The Justice Department declined to comment on its investigation Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department is investigating Goldman Sachs for its involvement in the scandal, which hinges on three large bond offerings that it arranged for 1MDB in 2012 and 2013.

The bond sales, which raised a total of $6.5 billion, earned Goldman $600 million in fees. In the end, almost half the money Goldman raised for the fund was allegedly siphoned off.

Goldman Sachs has repeatedly claimed that it was misled by rogue employees who intentionally deceived its legal and compliance teams. The bank has said it’s cooperating with all authorities investigating the matter.

More trouble for Deutsche Bank

The news comes at a difficult time for Deutsche Bank, which is separately trying to turn around its struggling business operations.

Germany’s largest bank announced this week that it will cut 18,000 jobs and dramatically shrink its investment bank, a retreat from Wall Street after two decades of intense competition with American rivals.

Deutsche Bank has been subject to a string of legal inquiries in recent years, raising questions about the effectiveness of its compliance department.

German authorities raided its offices in Frankfurt in November as part of an investigation into potential money laundering.

Prosecutors are looking into whether Deutsche Bank helped customers set up offshore companies in tax havens, while failing to report suspicious transactions.

The probe is related to the Panama Papers, a 2016 leak of confidential documents that exposed international money laundering networks and shell companies.