October 23, 2017 / 11:43 AM / a month ago

Freshfields raided in Frankfurt in German tax evasion inquiry

FRANKFURT, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Prosecutors have raided the Frankfurt offices of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer as part of an investigation into tax evasion in Germany, the law firm said on Monday.

Markus Paul, a Freshfields partner, confirmed in an email that Freshfields’ offices were searched on Thursday in relation to a former client’s “cum ex” transactions.

Using such transactions, also known as dividend stripping, banks in Germany exploited a legal loophole that allowed two parties to claim ownership of the same shares.

The double ownership allowed both parties to claim tax rebates. The scheme may have cost the state billions of euros in tax over many years. While the loophole was closed in 2012, numerous investigations of those involved continue.

“Freshfields is confident that the prosecutor’s review will reveal that our advice has been legally sound,” Paul said.

The prosecutor’s office declined to comment.

German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung first reported the raid in its Monday edition.

The paper said Freshfields prepared an expert opinion for Maple Bank, dated Jan. 14, 2009 which allowed the small bank to get a refund for taxes it did not pay.

Freshfields declined to confirm the client’s identity or further details of the Sueddeutsche Zeitung report.

Last year, German financial watchdog BaFin closed the German operations of Maple Bank due to over-indebtedness relating to the tax evasion investigations. (Reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker; Writing by Tom Sims; Editing by Douglas Busvine)

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