US Authorities Investigate Deutsche Bank Over Secret Iran Transactions

Deutsche Bank trading floor
Deutsche Bank trading floor
Sebastian Jost

Deutsche Bank may have done business to the tune of billions with Iran and other countries, violating U.S. sanctions. Sanctions were imposed on Iran by the international community because of its nuclear weapons program.

British bank Standard Chartered, which is said to have violated Iran sanctions, now faces payment of a $340 million settlement after New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Benjamin Lawsky exposed alleged abuses involving $250 billion in secret transactions with Iranian clients.

Four further financial institutions -- Deutsche Bank among them -- are now on the investigators’ radar. However, investigations are in the early stages and there are no concrete charges. For Deutsche Bank, the issue adds to the list of legal challenges it currently faces, which include its investment in mortgage-backed securities during the U.S. housing boom and suspected manipulation of the London interbank offered rate (Libor). According to the bank, only individual employees -- and not top management -- were involved in alleged manipulation of Libor and Euribor rates, but regulators have not yet concluded their investigations.

Further problems with U.S. authorities will only make it more difficult for Deutsche Bank’s new bosses, Jürgen Fitschen and Anshu Jain, to shake off old bank problems and focus on the present -- a major challenge in and of itself for the bank’s limping investment arm.

As such, doing business with Iran is no new subject of conflict between U.S. authorities and foreign banks. Various institutions faced with similar charges have had to pay millions in fines, among them Credit Suisse, Barclays, Lloyds, and ING.

A Deutsche Bank spokesperson stated that the bank did not wish to comment on the on-going investigations, saying only that it had taken a decision in 2007 not to undertake new business dealings with Iran, and insofar as legally possible, to pull out of existing business relations.

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Dutch Cities Have Been Secretly Probing Mosques Since 2013

Revelations of a nationally funded clandestine operation within 10 municipalities in the Netherlands to keep tabs on mosques and Muslim organizations after a rise in radicalization eight years ago.

The Nasser mosque in Veenendaal, one of the mosques reportedly surveilled

Meike Eijsberg

At least ten Dutch towns and cities have secretly used a private agency to probe mosques and other local religious organizations, Amsterdam-based daily het NRC reports in an exclusive investigation.

The clandestine operation — funded by NCTV, the National Security Services, the Netherlands' leading counter-terrorism agency — was prompted by the social unrest and uncertainty following multiple terror attacks in 2013, and a rise in Islamic radicalization.

The NCTV, which advises and financially supports municipalities in countering radicalization, put the municipalities in touch with Nuance by Training and Advice (Nuance door Trainingen en Advies, NTA), a private research agency based in Deventer, Netherlands. Among the institutions targeted by the investigations, which came at a cost of circa 500,000 euros, were the Al Mouahidin mosque in the central Dutch town of Ede, and the Nasser mosque east of the city of Utrecht, according to NRC.

Photo of people standing on prayer mats inside a Dutch mosque

Praying inside a Dutch mosque.


Broken trust in Islamic community

Unlike public officials, the private agency can enter the mosques to clandestinely research the situation. In this case, the agents observed activity, talk to visitors, administrators, and religious leaders, and investigated what they do and say on social media.

All findings then wound up in a secret report which includes personal details about what the administrators and teachers studied, who their relatives are, with whom they argued, and how often they had contact with authorities in foreign countries, like Morocco.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed.

It is unclear whether the practice is legal, which is why several members of the Dutch Parliament are now demanding clarification from the outgoing Minister of Justice and Security, Ferd Grapperhaus, who is said to be involved.

"The ease with which the government violates (fundamental) rights when it comes to Islam or Muslims is shocking," Stephan van Baarle, member of the leftist party DENK, told De Volkskrant, another Dutch newspaper.

Leaders of the Muslim organizations that were secretly probed say they feel betrayed. Hassan Saidi, director of one of the mosques investigated, said that the relationship with the local municipality had been good. "This puts a huge dent in the trust I'd had in the municipality," he told the Dutch public broadcaster NOS.

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