Six bankers got $33 million in bonuses in alleged German tax fraud: prosecutor

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FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Six former bankers accused of involvement in an illegal trading scheme in Germany earned $33 million in bonuses from the alleged fraud, prosecutors said on Monday.

The detail on the bonuses was part of an official announcement by Frankfurt prosecutors that they had filed charges against the bankers and a tax lawyer in a multi-million-euro trading scheme known as “cum-ex”.

Prosecutors, in announcing the charges for the scheme that they said cost the state 389 million euros in lost taxes, didn’t name the bank or law firm that employed the individuals.

But sources have said the bank was Maple Bank, a now-defunct Frankfurt-based bank that collapsed in 2016 due to its involvement in the cum-ex trades, and the law firm was Freshfields.

Maple Bank’s administrator did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Freshfields declined to comment.

The Frankfurt case is one in a series of investigations across Germany into a scheme which is alleged to have targeted mainly German companies to generate multiple tax reclaims from phantom dividends.

Such cum-ex trades required a syndicate of big banks and investors to work in tandem to engineer the trades.

These trades attracted the attention of German tax authorities after around a decade, who stamped them out.

The revelation of the trades has prompted a heated public debate, a parliamentary inquiry and a pledge from Berlin to get back the 5 billion euros it estimates was lost.

In this Frankfurt case, the bankers are accused of wrongdoing that occurred from 2006 through 2009.

Altogether, the bankers earned 29.5 million euros ($32.70 million) in bonuses, prosecutors said.

Earlier this month, Reuters and other news organizations reported that prosecutors had filed charges against the bankers and the lawyer.

Two of the bankers have been in custody since December.

The lawyer, a former partner at Freshfields, was arrested in November last year as part the investigation into the tax scam. He has been released on 4 million euro bail.

($1 = 0.9021 euros)

(Reporting by Hans Seidenstuecker; Writing by Tom Sims, editing by Louise Heavens)

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