Ex-Deutsche Bank executive Cohrs probed in Kirch case

FRANKFURT Fri Jan 17, 2014 11:17am EST

FRANKFURT Jan 17 (Reuters) - German prosecutors are investigating Michael Cohrs, a former top investment banker at Deutsche Bank and current Bank of England non-executive director, over testimony he gave before a judge in court over the collapse of the Kirch media empire.

Cohrs is suspected of having delivered misleading testimony in a court process related to Deutsche Bank's legal battle with the late media mogul Leo Kirch, a spokesman for the Munich prosecutor said on Friday, declining to give further details.

Naming Cohrs, a U.S. national, as an additional target in a criminal investigation marks a widening of a decade-old case that has already led to Deutsche Bank's current co-Chief Executive Juergen Fitschen also being named as a suspect in late 2013.

Cohrs once rivalled the bank's other co-CEO, Anshu Jain, as head of Deutsche's powerful investment bank before quitting the bank in 2010.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact Cohrs for comment, either via Deutsche Bank, the Bank of England, or another firm in which he is involved, private equity group EQT. There was also no response on a mobile phone number he is known to have used.

Deutsche Bank declined to comment. In the past it has denied that former members of its board gave false evidence in court. The Bank of England did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kirch had claimed Rolf Breuer, ex-Deutsche Bank chief executive and later chairman, triggered his media group's downfall by questioning its creditworthiness in a 2002 television interview. He sought for years to recoup about 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion) in damages. The bank and its officers denied that.

The legal battle that ensued has involved prosecutors searching Deutsche Bank offices and has dragged on through the courts for a decade. In 2012, a Munich judge said Kirch had suffered damages of between 120 million and 1.5 billion euros. But a final settlement amount has yet to be determined.

Prosecutors are also investigating whether Breuer, current co-CEO Fitschen and other board members may have also offered misleading testimony.

Cohrs left Deutsche Bank in 2010, where he had held the position of head of global banking. He serves as a non-executive director on the Court of Directors at the Bank of England, according to the BOE's website, as well as industrial advisor for EQT.

EQT declined to comment.