UniCredit sees up to 200-mln-euro hit in German tax probe-source

FRANKFURT Wed Feb 20, 2013 4:32am EST

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FRANKFURT Feb 20 (Reuters) - UniCredit's German unit HVB expects a hit of up to 200 million euros ($267 million) from a tax evasion probe relating to share deals several years ago, a source close to the bank said on Wednesday.

The bank's supervisory board recently discussed a 173-page report presented by law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP on the tax issue, which in November prompted a raid by state prosecutors and tax inspectors, the source added.

UniCredit said it was seeking to fully clarify the facts and to cooperate constructively with the authorities.

Prosecutors are investigating possible tax evasion in connection with share transactions in 2006-2008.

UniCredit said last year it had informed tax authorities it had timed certain proprietary trades close to dividend payments and may have claimed tax credits related to the transactions.

Its HVB unit is being probed for helping with a tax rebate strategy known as "dividend stripping", where a stock is bought just before losing rights to a dividend then quickly sold.

A source familiar the process had said prosecutors suspect that, as a result of this scheme, taxes of around 124 million euros were illegitimately reclaimed,

German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung first reported the possible charge on Wednesday.

($1 = 0.7487 euros) (Reporting by Arno Schuetze; Editing by Ludwig Burger and Mark Potter)

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