Cypriot lender RCB says Deutsche Bank decision to cut ties unrelated to Panama Papers

ATHENS (Reuters) - Cyprus-based RCB Bank denied on Friday that a reported decision by Deutsche Bank to disengage from the Cypriot lender was connected to the Panama Papers affair. Bloomberg news agency reported earlier Friday that Deutsche Bank had decided to end ties with RCB and that disengagement would be expedited after last weekend's massive data leak from a Panama-based law firm prompted allegations that the Cyprus-based bank helped a person close to Vladimir Putin to amass fortunes. RCB has denied any wrongdoing and said the individual, named in Britain's Guardian newspaper as musician Sergei Roldugin, had never been a client either directly or as a beneficiary in any company maintaining an account with the bank. "RCB Bank categorically denies any connection between the Panama Papers affair and the choice of Deutsche Bank to disengage from its clearing business in some regions," RCB said in an emailed statement to Reuters. "We were informed about Deutsche Bank’s decision well before the Panama Papers affairs. More specifically, we were informed about this decision, which we understand forms part of Deutsche’s change in strategy, on March 21, 2016." RCB's cooperation with Deutsche Bank is still in force during a transition period, the bank said. Under new chief executive John Cryan, Deutsche Bank is embarking on a painful restructuring to cut costs and reduce its risk exposure, a strategy that includes cutting off relationships with non-core customers and reducing the number of services it offers. The Guardian newspaper on Sunday alleged that RCB and other banks had extended "enormous unsecured loans" to entities linked to close Putin acquaintances. RCB said the allegations were false. "The Bank never granted or grants unsecured loans," RCB said. Russian state-controlled VTB Bank holds 46.29 percent of RCB's share capital, according to the RCB website. (Reporting By Michele Kambas; Editing by David Goodman)