Berlin: Top German politicians have sharply criticised Deutsche Bank's new leadership for "attempting to influence the judiciary" after Juergen Fitschen -- who along with India-born Anshu Jain is co-Chairman of the bank-- phoned Hessen state's Premier to complain about a police raid over tax fraud allegations.
Hassen Premier Volker Bouffier said yesterday that he received a call from Fitschen in which he complained about the raid saying that the massive police operation on Wednesday
last week had damaged the reputation of the largest German lender.
"It was very unusual, but we are in a free nation and everybody can make complaints," Bouffier said in a TV interview. He said he told Fitschen that the state government is not responsible for the raid.
More than 500 police officials and tax inspectors swooped on the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt and its branches and private properties in Berlin and in Duesseldorf as part of a long-running probe into the bank's role in tax fraud and money laundering related to the European Union' s carbon trade scheme.
The state prosecutor's office in Frankfurt announced after the raid that it was extending the investigations to Fitschen and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Stefan Krause. Police arrested six employees of the bank and a magistrate later ordered to keep five of them in preventive custody. Altogether 25 employees of the bank are currently under investigation, according to the prosecutor's office.
Several politicians reacted angrily to Fitschen's phone call to Bouffier, which they described as an attempt to influence the state prosecutor. Perhaps Fitschen has not understood that in Germany nobody stays above the rule of law, Michael Meister, deputy parliamentary leader of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said.
"It is impertinent to influence the state prosecutor and this should not be tolerated," Andrea Nahles, General Secretary of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) said.
Finance Minister of Rhineland Palatinate Carsten Kuehl said the allegations against Deutsche Bank are not "petty crimes or bureaucratic errors." There are "strong suspicions that the state was defrauded millions of euros with criminal energy." Therefore, it is also in the interest of Deutsche Bank to thoroughly investigate the allegations, he told a newspaper.
Kuehl said he expected "every possible support also from the co-CEOs" of Deutsche Bank. Fitschen and his co-CEO Jain had promised a "new beginning" for Deutsche Bank and to refrain from shady businesses shortly after they took over its leadership from Josef Ackermann in June.
The investigations against Deutsche Bank involve one of the biggest tax fraud cases in Germany. The bank is charged with helping during 2009-2010 an internationally operating ring of traders to buy emission certificates abroad without paying the value added tax. They later sold the emission certificates among themselves in Germany and pocketed the VAT.
The emissions trading system is a key policy initiative of the EU to reduce CO2 emissions in the 27-nation bloc. It sets limits on the emissions of industries and power plants and allows them to buy carbon permits for additional emissions if needed as well as to sell their surpluses.
The state prosecutor in Frankfurt said investigations were taken up against Fitschen and Krause because they signed Deutsche Bank's tax declaration in 2009. Fitschen headed the bank's German operations while Krause was the CFO, a post which he holds until now.
Deutsche Bank claimed that it "corrected the tax statement voluntarily a long time ago" within the prescribed time.
First Published On : Dec 18, 2012 15:12 IST