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German prosecutors search Deutsche Bank HQ in tax fraud probe

By Tom Sims and Marta Orosz

BERLIN (Reuters) -German prosecutors have searched the headquarters of Deutsche Bank in connection with an ongoing investigation of the multibillion-euro tax fraud scheme known as "cum-ex", Deutsche Bank said on Tuesday.

Germany's largest lender is one of many banks that prosecutors have raided in connection with the tax scheme that thrived more than a decade ago.

The public prosecutor's office in Cologne, without naming Deutsche Bank, confirmed it had conducted a raid on a bank and an auditing company in Frankfurt that involved more than 100 investigators, and extended to the homes of 10 suspects.

Deutsche Bank, under Chief Executive Christian Sewing, has been trying to clean up its reputation since he assumed the helm in 2018. Earlier this year, prosecutors raided Deutsche Bank and its asset management unit DWS over allegations of misleading investors about "green" investments.

In the trading scheme being investigated on Tuesday, known as "cum-ex" or dividend stripping, banks and investors would swiftly trade shares of companies around their dividend payout day, blurring stock ownership and allowing multiple parties to falsely reclaim tax rebates on dividends.

The loophole, now closed, has also snowballed into a political scandal, forcing testimony earlier this year from German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

The probe has long taken on vast dimensions. Government officials say it involves some 100 banks on four continents and at least 1,000 suspects.

Deutsche said in a statement it has been cooperating with investigators on the issue since 2017 and continued to do so.

"The measure serves in particular to find relevant communication in the form of emails and other written correspondence," the prosecutors' office said in a statement.

Reuters has reported Deutsche Bank’s involvement in the scheme between 2006 and 2011, when bankers discussed the "reputation risks" of the matter. Deutsche lent money to companies to carry out the trades.

Dozens of one-time Deutsche bankers have been targeted in the tax probe, said a person with knowledge of the matter.

In September, Deutsche said that it, along with two other lenders, would pay a combined 60 million euros to German tax authorities for its role in the scheme in an effort to put the issue behind it.

Handelsblatt first reported Tuesday's search.

(Reporting by Tom Sims, Marta Orosz and Maria Sheahan Editing by Susan Fenton and Mark Potter)