Spineless Berenberg chief ducks Panama Papers committee hearing
The European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into Money Laundering, Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion (PANA) is due to hear from two former compliance officers of the German private bank Berenberg today.
Both had been fired by the Hamburg-based bank for voicing concerns about their former employer’s clientele.
Speaking ahead of today’s meeting in Brussels, PANA Committee Vice-Chair and GUE/NGL MEP Fabio De Masi says:
“Drug trafficking, arms trade, money laundering, tax evasion, corruption, gambling – what criminal activities has Berenberg not been involved in? Some of the money in the Siemens slush fund scandal, for example, was wired through the bank.”
“I’m delighted that thanks to GUE/NGL’s proposal, both compliance officers – fired by Berenberg for warning about the company’s dodgy clients – are attending the Committee hearing to provide their testimony.”
“By contrast, Berenberg’s managing partner, Hans-Walther Peters, has refused to do so and instead referred us to the ongoing investigations. His no-show can only be interpreted as a guilty plea as Peters had already been invited to come before the Parliament in his role as acting President of the Association of German Banks. But again, he ducked the invitation by sending over the General Manager of the Association instead.”
De Masi continues, “the big German banks need to think twice about whether someone who may have a case to defend before a judge and one who shirks his public duties should be their choice as president of the guild. Meanwhile, the European Parliament should be given the power to question under oath as soon as possible.”
“Berenberg had an excellent relationship with the now infamous law firm, Mossack Fonseca. The latter even praised the bank for quick and easy ways to set up accounts for letterbox companies. Ramón Fonseca, co-founder of the law firm, had himself several private accounts with Berenberg and one of the directors of Berenberg-Switzerland used one of the shell companies of the Panamanian law firm,” he continued.
“One of Ramón Fonseca's sons even had a short-term internship at the bank. All of these show Berenberg knew very well with whom they were dealing with. The bank therefore cannot profess ignorance over such serious matters”, concludes De Masi.