Cologne, Dusseldorf For a long time it looked like T. was going to get out of the affair lightly. His law firm, Freshfields, had written opinions on dubious tax deals for Maple Bank. The bank perished in these transactions. The General Prosecutor’s Office in Frankfurt came into the house, in the indictment dated December 4, 2019, six former bankers and tax lawyer Ulf Johannemann were accused. Johannemann was chief of T. at the time in question. This seemed to have been spared a place on the dock.
Now the time has come. As the Handelsblatt learned from defense circles, the investigators from Frankfurt also accused T. A government spokesman confirmed when asked that another lawyer was charged. The indictment consisted of 322 pages. In three cases, he was charged with aiding and abetting a child for serious tax evasion.
The speaker gave no names. T.’s defender did not respond to questions. Freshfields did not want to comment on the matter either.
The name T. was mentioned dozens of times in the first indictment. The officials trace the tax-driven businesses of Maple Bank in detail on more than 400 pages. They estimate the potential damage to the general public at up to 450 million euros.
This damage was caused by so-called cum-ex trading. The term stands for what is probably the largest tax scandal in German post-war history. This allowed banks and investors to “reimburse” taxes that they had not paid.
Law firms such as Freshfields wrote expert reports that presented this as legally compliant. A network of banks, dealers, accountants and consultants helped to conduct the business. When the verdict in Cum-Ex’s first criminal case was pronounced, the judge spoke of “organized crime”.
Maple Bank traded stocks in a circle
In the case of Maple Bank, the investigators came across a special system. Unlike other institutions, the bank with its Canadian roots did not even bother to turn on other financial institutions for the district businesses. The prosecutors speak of intra-group district business.
Especially in the years 2005 to 2007, partly also in 2008, the papers within the Maple group were practically traded in circles. Maple was also represented in Great Britain and Italy. Even Maple bankers explicitly used the term “cycle” in internal emails.
Freshfields was the key advisor to Maple Bank on cum-ex deals. The bank relied on expert opinions from the accused Johannemann with the title “Short sales around the dividend date” for the years 2007, 2008 and 2009.
The advice was not limited to the preparation of expert reports, which basically classified the model as justifiable. As evidenced by numerous emails, Johannemann was also informed about how the business was implemented. From the start, Johannemann knew exactly about the Maple Bank’s cum-ex transactions.
Suspected tax damage: 346 million euros
T. apparently has to put up with similar allegations. T. was a kind of right hand from Johannemann, also when advising Maple Bank.
According to the Attorney General, the accused is charged with being responsible for the development and advice of cum-ex transactions at Maple from 2007 to 2009 together with Johannemann, and – knowing the actual structure of the transactions – deliberately prepared a certificate of courtesy to have.
According to the investigators, the business should be presented as legal. The total tax damage charged is EUR 346,251,080.81.
The Causa Cum-Ex has developed into a huge disaster for Freshfields. Johannemann was promoted to global tax chief when his cum-ex mandates had long been known. Johannemann left the firm at the end of 2019 – at his own request, as Freshfields said. Shortly thereafter, he was detained for four weeks.
T. has also not been a member of Freshfields for a few weeks. A spokesman for the law firm said that T. had left the partnership by mutual agreement in early June.
More: The Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer law firm faces the ruins of its advice.