German Prosecutors Raid Ministries in Money Laundering Probe

German prosecutors raided the finance and justice ministries on Thursday as part of an investigation into the government’s anti-money laundering agency, putting a spotlight on Germany's failings in tackling financial crime, Reuters reported. The probe into the Financial Intelligence Unit, an agency of the finance ministry under Social Democrat chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz, is looking at whether it was told to ignore warnings of suspect payments to Africa. The raids come at a pivotal moment for Scholz, who opinion polls suggest has a good chance of becoming German chancellor in national elections on Sept 26. Scholz rebuffed criticism from lawmakers following the raids, but the episode casts a cloud because it refocuses attention on the ministry he runs. The FIU and BaFin, the financial regulator, which also answers to Scholz have been under scrutiny for failing to spot problems at payments firm Wirecard, which collapsed last year in Germany's biggest corporate fraud. Scholz, speaking on a campaign stop in Potsdam, said he had had bolstered staff at the FIU agency to almost 500 from 165 and invested heavily in better equipping it. The probe comes as the country's anti-money laundering efforts are under review by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global body that groups countries from the United States to China, to tackle financial crime. The FIU has long struggled to keep up with the tens of thousands of warnings it receives about suspect money transfers. It only stopped using fax machines to receive such reports from banks in the past few years, one German official has told Reuters. Read more.
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