* Suspicious envelope addressed to Deutsche CEO Ackermann
* Sources say it contained explosives
* Police say unclear who sent envelope
By Edward Taylor and Philipp Halstrick
FRANKFURT, Dec 7 (Reuters) - An envelope containing explosives was sent on Wednesday to the head of Deutsche Bank Josef Ackermann -- known as the face of capitalism in Germany -- but it was intercepted before it reached him, a banking source and a U.S. law enforcement official said.
Police in Frankfurt confirmed that a suspicious package was sent to the bank’s headquarters in the city and that they were investigating. But a spokesman declined to say what it contained.
“There was a piece of mail that arrived at Deutsche Bank that was noticed. It was noticed because it seemed unusual,” Frankfurt police spokesman Alexander Kiessling said.
A bomb diposal expert had been sent to the headquarters of Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest bank, he added.
A banking source in Germany told Reuters that a bomb had been sent to Ackermann, who is Deutsche bank’s chief executive, but said it had been detected by security personnel before it got near him.
In New York, a senior U.S. law enforcement official said the package had been discovered in a mailroom around 1 p.m. Frankfurt time (1200 GMT) and contained explosives and shrapnel.
The U.S. official said it carried a return address from the European Central Bank, which is also based in Germany’s financial centre.
“We confirm that a suspicious package has been sent to Deutsche Bank. It was handed over to police who started investigations,” a bank spokesman said.
Security had been stepped up at Deutsche Bank offices around the world, banking sources said.
German police and banking sources said it was unclear who had sent the package.
The incident took place at a time when anti-capitalist protesters across the world are demonstrating against what they see as the excesses of bankers and financiers.
Germany is also playing a leading role in efforts to save the euro zone from collapse, which has led to the imposition of austerity measures on Greece and other countries.
It also occurred a day before European leaders were due to hold a summit in Brussels to discuss a way out of the sovereign debt crisis that started in Greece just over two years ago.
Ackermann is the face of capitalism in Germany and is one of the few senior managers in the country who is always surrounded by bodyguards. He is due to retire in May next year after more than 10 years at the bank’s helm.
A 63-year old Swiss, he is the first non-German to head up Germany’s flagship lender, and is credited with transforming it into a “global champion” with a market value of nearly 28 billion euros and over 102,000 employees.
He is the highest paid CEO among German blue-chip companies, earning 9 million euros in 2010, and is known internationally for his role as chairman of the Institute of International Finance, the bank lobbying group negotiating a private-sector contribution toward a Greek bailout.
Ackerman became a protagonist for Wall Street-style payouts and a shareholder-driven management style and initially fell out of favour with the German establishment for saying Deutsche Bank was in need of a performance hike, an approach that some politicians felt clashed with Germany’s “social market economy.”
Simon Johnson, a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, told a German newspaper this year that Ackermann was “one of the most dangerous bank managers in the world” and that his ambitious profit goals had turned Deutsche Bank into a hazard for the financial system
Last month, Ackermann was whistled and shouted at by members of the Occupy Movement in the northern German port city of Hamburg when he tried to give a speech. At one point he invited the masked demonstrators up on the podium to ask him questions.
In May last year, he drew fire from ordinary Greeks after he cast doubt on Greece’s ability to repay its debt.
Ackermann also backed efforts to restructure the Mediterranean country’s finances but said he was skeptical about Greece’s ability to implement tough austerity measures imposed as a precondition for a rescue.
A previous head of Deutsche Bank, Alfred Herrhausen, was assassinated by the Red Army Faction in November 1989. The leftist guerrilla group planted a roadside bomb near his home in Bad Homburg on the outskirts of Frankfurt and waited for his Mercedes-Benz limousine to drive by.
Since then Deutsche Bank has stepped up security procedures to protect its executives. The banking source said that since 2006 every item of mail sent to members of Deutsche Bank’s Executive Committee was checked.
Kiessling said Frankfurt police were leading the investigation and state police in Wiesbaden were examining the A5-sized envelope.
The Frankfurt incident prompted other banks globally to step up security.
“We have received notification from law enforcement officials and are diligently monitoring the situation,” said a Wells Fargo spokesman, Ancel Martinez, in San Francisco, the United States.
In New York, a Bank of America spokesman declined to discuss security measures but said: “The safety of our customers and employees is our number one concern.”