October 2, 2017 | The Jerusalem Post
NY State Probes Deutsche Bank For Link To Palestinian Terrorist Group
The Office of the New York State Comptroller on Friday opened an investigation into accounts Deutsche Bank holds for a German political party that allegedly provides organizational support to the PFLP terrorist organization.
“As part of our policy, we are making inquiries of Deutsche Bank,” Matthew Sweeney, a spokesman for the Office of the New York State Comptroller, said after The Jerusalem Post revealed the four accounts the Marxist Leninist Party of Germany holds at Deutsche Bank and the party’s purported fund-raising for its partner in the recent German election – the pro- BDS entity the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Both the EU and the US have designated the PFLP as a terrorist organization.
Deutsche Bank is an investor in the $200 million New York Credit Small Business Investment Company that is part of “New York’s $184.5 billion state pension fund, the third-largest public pension fund in the country,” the Comptroller’s Office said in 2015.
Deutsche Bank’s operation of the Marxist Leninist Party’s accounts raises a host of questions about terrorism financing, including whether the bank violated New York State’s anti-BDS executive order.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in 2016: “It is very simple. If you boycott against Israel, New York will boycott you.”
The Post reached out to Cuomo’s office on Saturday for a comment on whether Deutsche Bank violated his 2016 executive order, but his office did not respond by press time.
Claudio De Luca, a spokesman for Deutsche Bank at its Frankfurt headquarters, told the Post that the bank does not generally issue comments on customers.
He did say, however, that “Deutsche Bank takes the fight against finance crimes and terrorism finance very seriously. The bank strengthened considerably the range of its systems and controls. The bank added roughly 1,000 new employees between 2015 and the end of 2017 to its Division of Compliance and Anti-Financial Crime. The processes of examining customers and acceptance of customers are extensively checked. Deutsche Bank closes, where necessary, risky account relations, and pulls out of risky markets.”
In 2015, the US federal government and New York financial regulators fined Deutsche Bank $258m. for transactions in violation of US law with Iran.
In January, British and US authorities sanctioned Deutsche Bank for Russian money- laundering offenses. The bank paid $630m. in fines for its role in engineering $10b. in sham trades. New York’s Department of Financial Services noted in a legal settlement with Deutsche Bank that the bank was involved in “converting rubles into dollars through security trades that had no economic purpose.”
Various government regulators sanctioned Deutsche Bank three additional times during 2015 and 2016 for financial misconduct. The fines totaled nearly $10b.
Peter Weispfenning, a spokesman for the Marxist Leninist Party, told the Post the accusations leveled against the party are a renewed attempt “to establish an unjust and unprovable terrorist connection.”
According to a report in the Hamburger Abendblatt newspaper, the Marxist Leninist Party had €4.17m. available for its electoral campaign ahead of last week’s German election. It is unclear how much money, if any, was allocated to the PFLP and its supporters. In addition to the four Deutsche Bank accounts listed on the Marxist Leninist Party’s website, the GLS Bank in Bochum operates an account for the party.
The party campaigned on a joint list with the PFLP. The Marxist Leninist Party did not secure the required 5% of the vote to enter the Bundestag. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency monitors the Marxist Leninist Party and its 1,800 members because the party is deemed a threat to the country’s constitutional democracy.
The Marxist Leninist Party said in an early September statement that “the PFLP is not a member of our alliance. Sympathizers of the PFLP are, however, engaged in our alliance and are represented… in the interests of the Palestinians.”
However, German media showed screenshots of Marxist Leninist Party election literature listing the PFLP as an alliance partner of the party.
The Marxist Leninist Party called for “Solidarity with the just resistance of the Palestinian people against Israel’s war of aggression and state terrorism” during the IDF’s Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in 2009. The party says the PFLP should be delisted as a terrorist organization.
Volker Beck, a former Green Party deputy in the Bundestag, who is well-versed in the inner workings of the PFLP in Germany, told the Post, “The PFLP is a listed terrorist organization and the PFLP is active in Germany.” He said Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière must ban the PFLP in the country.
Beck added, “If the MLPD [Marxist Leninist Party of Germany] transferred money to the PFLP, that would be a criminal offense and support of terrorism.”
New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli said last year that the New York State Common Retirement Fund plans to review its portfolio for any companies involved in BDS.
“Attempts to harm Israel’s economy can put our investments there at risk,” DiNapoli said. “Israel remains an attractive place to invest and we look forward to finding new opportunities there. We’re putting companies engaged in BDS activities on notice that there will be consequences if their anti-Israel activities expose our investments to financial harm.”
According to the comptroller’s statement, “The fund has invested approximately $532m. in Israel-based opportunities and has been considering an appropriate response to the BDS movement since DiNapoli’s visit to Israel in November 2015.”
European banks and companies face increased scrutiny for anti-Israel business activities. Last week, the Post reported that the State of Colorado sanctioned the Denmark’s Danske Bank for its support of BDS. The BBC reported in January that authorities said Deutsche Bank had missed “numerous opportunities” to detect illicit financial schemes.
Troy D. Gravitt, a spokesman for the Deutsche Bank in New York City, referred all Post questions to the Frankfurt office of the bank.
Benjamin Weinthal is a research fellow at the nonpartisan Foundation for Defense of Democracies. You can follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.
You can follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD.