German prosecutors raid Maple Bank in tax case

Fri Sep 25, 2015 6:36am EDT
 
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FRANKFURT, Sept 25 (Reuters) - German prosecutors searched offices and residences linked to Canadian lender Maple Bank this week in a probe of serious tax evasion and money laundering connected to dividend stripping, officials said on Friday.

Nearly 300 investigators searched 30 premises in several German states on Wednesday in pursuit of evidence against 11 people thought to have illegally claimed more than 100 million euros ($112 million) in tax paid using a strategy known as dividend stripping or dividend arbitrage, Frankfurt prosecutors said.

The prosecutors did not name the bank involved, however Maple Bank confirmed the raids.

"Maple Bank has thoroughly supported the search operations and has assured the investigating authorities of its further cooperation," the bank said in a statement.

"The bank does not comment in principle on questions of tax law and ongoing procedures," it said.

Previous cases of dividend stripping in Germany have involved buying a stock just before losing rights to a dividend, then selling it, taking advantage of a now-closed legal loophole that allowed both buyer and seller to reclaim capital gains tax.

Other banks, including HVB and HSH Nordbank , have also become involved in investigations into the dividend stripping strategy. The loophole that made the strategy possible was not closed until 2012.

Germany's Sueddeutsche Zeitung said on Friday Maple Bank may be the largest of the cases, citing sources close to the investigation as saying the loss to tax authorities may total around 450 million euros. ($1 = 0.8970 euros) (Reporting by Jonathan Gould; editing by Adrian Croft)