Frankfurt prosecutors file charges against lawyer, former Maple Bank bankers

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The Frankfurt Prosecutor’s Office has filed charges against a former partner at global law firm Freshfields and six former bankers of collapsed Maple Bank over their alleged involvement in a fraudulent trading scheme, a source familiar with the matter said.

The Frankfurt Prosecutor’s office said on Thursday the bankers and the tax lawyer are alleged to have caused tax losses for the German state of more than 380 million euros ($422 million) with the planning and executing of so-called “cum-ex” deals. The Prosecutor did not name the people charged.

Ulf Johannemann, a former partner at Freshfields, was arrested in November last year as part of an investigation into the tax scam. He has been released on bail.

Johannemann’s lawyer Werner Leitner declined to comment. At the time of Johannemann’s arrest in November, Leitner said his detention was completely unfounded.

Maple Bank’s administrator was not immediately available 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, known as cum-ex.

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

German federal police in December arrested two former Maple Bank bankers to prevent the men from leaving Germany. They are part of the group of six bankers charged on Thursday.

These arrests were part of the investigation into Maple Bank, a person with direct knowledge of the matter said at the time.

Frankfurt-based Maple Bank collapsed in 2016 due to its involvement in the cum-ex trades.

In a separate case, two British bankers are being tried in Bonn for their alleged roles in a scheme which one told the court involved “astronomical” multi-billion-euro trades.

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

Reporting by Hans Seidenstücker; Writing by Arno Schuetze. Editing by Jane Merriman