World News

German prosecutors confirm raid at ABN Amro in Frankfurt over dividend stripping

FRANKFURT (Reuters) – German authorities on Thursday confirmed a raid at Dutch bank ABN Amro <ABNd.AS> related to a dividend tax stripping case known as cum-ex, the Cologne state prosecutor’s office said.

“We can confirm that we are carrying out measures at ABN Amro in Frankfurt within the cum-ex context,” a spokesman for the authority said.

The raid is an escalation in efforts to holds dozens of people and global banks to account for a sham trading scheme to make double tax reclaims that Germany estimates cost it more than 5 billion euros ($5.43 billion) in total, though experts believe the sum could be much higher.

The strategy was common for several years until 2012 and has been described by German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz as a “scandal”.

Earlier, newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and western German public broadcaster WDR reported the raid on their websites.

Citing eye witnesses, they said several police vans and passenger cars were in front of the German headquarters in Frankfurt’s banking district and officers were entering.

“Of course we are cooperating. Also we are answering all outstanding information requests from German authorities,” said ABN Amro spokesman Jarco de Swart.

Dividend stripping involves cross-border trading of company shares around a syndicate of banks, investors and hedge funds to create the impression of numerous owners, each of whom was entitled to a tax rebate.

Numerous banks and investors are being scrutinised for their role in it.

ABN Amro has said that its exposure to the scandal was limited.

On Feb 12, ABN Amro reported fourth-quarter net profit of 316 million euros, unchanged from the same period a year ago. It is facing a separate criminal investigation in the Netherlands over failures to detect money laundering and report suspicious transactions.

(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi and Vera Eckert, editing by Michelle Martin)