Oil tycoon Deuss at centre of fraud probe

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Controversial oil tycoon John Deuss has "temporarily" stepped down as chairman and chief executive of Bermuda Commercial Bank (BCB) due to an investigation into alleged money laundering and illegal banking.

The bank's chief operating officer, Timothy Ulrich, and another director, Tineke Deuss, have also stepped down on the same temporary basis.

The moves came as law enforcement authorities in the Netherlands raided the Deuss family home in Berg en Dal, near Nijmegen.

The Deusses and Mr Ulrich are also officers of First Curacao International Bank (FCIB), a Netherlands Antilles-licensed bank wholly owned by John Deuss. It is BCB's biggest shareholder, with a 47 per cent stake.

According to the Dutch media, FCIB is being investigated for reportedly operating without a banking licence, tax evasion and fraud. Raids were also apparently conducted at the offices of FCIB's administrative services provider in Holland and at FCIB's Netherlands Antilles office in the Caribbean.

A BCB spokesman said FCIB had confirmed that the investigation was taking place, and that it was focused on "the bank's involvement in alleged money-laundering activities by some of its clients and whether the activities of its Dutch service provider require a banking licence". However, the bank said there had been no impropriety by officers or shareholders.

John Deuss, who has had a home in Bermuda for 30 years, is one of the world's best-known oil dealers. He came to prominence in the 1980s when he supplied the South African apartheid regime with oil. Since then he has also traded in Russian oil; in the 1990s, he became president of the Oman Oil Company.

"John Deuss has long been one of Bermuda's most intriguing, fascinating and reclusive residents," said David Marchant, of the MiamiOffshore Alert newsletter. "He seldom grants interviews despite the often grand nature of his business activities. [It] only adds to the air of mystery that seems to surround him locally."