The US Department of Justice has in recent weeks stepped up its investigation into Deutsche Bank’s role in the 200 billion euro ($220 billion) Danske Bank money laundering scandal, four people familiar with the inquiry told Reuters.
One source said the DoJ’s new line of inquiry is whether Deutsche helped move tainted money from Danske, Denmark’s largest lender, into the United States. If proven, that could lead to steep financial penalties.
Officials from the DoJ, who have been working closely with Estonian prosecutors for around 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 it continued to cooperate with the authorities in Estonia, Denmark, France and the United States.
The DoJ and Frankfurt state prosecutors declined to comment on the US investigation, which two sources told Reuters is due to be completed next year.
Deutsche Bank’s spokesman said it had significantly improved controls in recent years.
“We have repeatedly stressed that we are in a good and constructive exchange with the authorities,” he added.
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 have previously told Reuters.
Although the Justice Department requested information from Deutsche last year relating to Danske transactions, at the time its executives believed that the investigation was focused onDanske and that the German bank itself was not a target.
However, Deutsche officials were made aware in recent months that the scope of the DoJ probe had broadened to the bank’s role in facilitating the Danske trades and its possible failure to report suspicious transactions quickly enough, one of the people said.
Deutsche has already paid nearly $700 million in fines by New York and British regulators in a separate money laundering case involving $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.