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From Fine Wine to Golf Junkets, Deutsche Bank Reportedly Paid a Hefty Price to Set Up Business in China

October 15, 2019, 3:26 PM UTC

For Western firms, the price of doing business in China can sometimes seem nebulous and exorbitant—dauntingly so. To the chagrin of Deutsche Bank, much of that expense has now been revealed, almost down to the penny.

For years, the bank engaged in a charm campaign in China that reportedly involved lavishing patronage jobs on the unqualified friends and family members of Chinese officials. And, according to a new report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and The New York Times, Deutsche Bank laid out millions in gifts—including a crystal tiger and Bang & Olufsen sound system ($18,000); $10,000 in golf outings and a trip to Las Vegas, and a $4,254 bottle of French wine—plus paid out questionable fees to consultants.

“The bank’s rule-bending rise to the top was chronicled in confidential documents, prepared by the company and its outside lawyers, that were obtained by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung,” The Times detailed in its reporting this week. “The previously undisclosed documents, shared with The New York Times, cover a 15-year period and include spreadsheets, emails, internal investigative reports and transcripts of interviews with senior executives.”

The Times tracked down Josef Ackerhman, Deutsche Bank’s CEO until 2012, to ask him about the firm’s spending and hiring practices in China during his time leading the bank. “This was part of doing business in the country,” he told the newspaper. “At the time, this was the way things were done.”

In a statement to Fortune, Deutsche Bank did not deny the charges in the report, but attempted to minimize the severity.

“These events,” it said in the statement, “date back as far as 2002 and have been dealt with. As part of its effort to remediate shortcomings of the past, Deutsche Bank self-identified, thoroughly investigated and reported to authorities certain past conduct.”

The latest report doesn’t come as a complete surprise. In August, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Deutsche Bank had to pay $16.2 million to settle charges that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in putting unqualified staffers on the payroll in both China and Russia upon setting up businesses there.

In a statement at the time, the SEC said, “Deutsche Bank employees hired relatives at the request of foreign officials in both the Asia-Pacific region and Russia to obtain or retain business or other benefits.”

In agreeing to pay the penalty this summer, Deutsche Bank did not admit or deny the SEC charges.

That payment though is now back in the spotlight after the latest report. “That penalty, the documents show, amounted to a small fraction of the revenues gained in China from business stemming in part” from the questionable hiring activities, The Times report alleged.

In the Deutsche Bank statement released on Tuesday, and shared with Fortune, the firm said it has reformed its ways. “As reflected in the SEC’s hiring practices settlement [from August], we have also enhanced our policies and controls, and action has been taken where issues have been identified,” the giant German lender said.

In the past decade, Deutsche Bank has become one of the biggest overseas banking group’s to set up business in China. Its investment banking operation has been particularly strong.

In recent years, the bank has acted as lead or principal underwriter on the IPO of Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp, on BMW’s increased investment in Brilliance China Automotive Holdings and on the $14 billion private fundraising by Ant Financial Services Group for its online payments platform.

Werner Steinmueller, the bank’s Asia-Pacific CEO, earlier this year told China Daily that the German lender saw its China expansion plan as a major business imperative.

“China has demonstrated clearly its determination to open up the financial sector to global players,” Steinmuller told the state-run newspaper. “We of course welcome this approach, and see abundant opportunities in China as we are strong here and competitively positioned to capture market share in our key areas of focus.”

In February, Steinmueller told the German media that the Asia-Pac business accounted for 12 percent of the bank’s income.

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More must-read stories from Fortune:

Trump’s tax bill has cost homeowners a trillion dollars
—Inside JP Morgan, moving on from WeWork is proving to be a messy proposition
What is Oyo? Behind Softbank’s latest high-growth, high-valuation bet
—Why the next recession may feel very different than 2008
—Trump’s tariffs were supposed to ding China, but the U.S. economy is getting hit 2.5x harder
Don’t miss the daily Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter on deals and dealmakers.