Prosecutors, police and tax inspectors in Germany have raided the offices of dozens of banks, financial advisers and wealthy individuals as part of a criminal probe into Germans suspected of tax evasion.
According to the Frankfurt Public Prosecutor, authorities searched the homes of eight people in the towns of Bad Tölz, Erkrath, Hamburg, Konz, Simmerath, and Sylt.
Officials also visited 11 banks in Aachen, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Erding, Frankfurt, Cologne and Trier, and the offices of four tax consultants and six asset management companies.
Wealthy Germans allegedly used tax havens to hide capital gains from the Germany treasury and evade taxes, according to the prosecutor’s press release.
“The purpose of the search warrants is to gather evidence about untaxed income and to learn about the economic activity of the companies in tax havens,” the Public Prosecutor stated in a press release.
Prosecutors stated that the “trigger” for the investigation were findings from Offshore Leaks, a 2013 investigation called Secrecy for Sale by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
While the press release did not name individuals or companies under investigation, officials did allege that the subjects of the raids were helped by “the former subsidiary in the British Virgin Islands of a major German bank.”
The bank is understood to be Deutsche Bank and the former subsidiary is Regula Ltd, according to ICIJ partners Norddeutscher Rundfunk and Sueddeutsche Zeitung.
Regula Ltd., a “nominee” shareholder of shell companies, was reportedly used to obscure the identities of taxpayers who owned or otherwise benefited from offshore companies.
ICIJ first wrote about Regula Ltd. in a 2013 investigation into how Deutsche Bank helped clients maintain hundreds of offshore companies, some of which used Regula Ltd.
The subsidiary also appeared in ICIJ’s Swiss Leaks, Panama Papers and Paradise Papers investigations.
Deutsche Bank told ICIJ that today’s raids did not involve a search of the bank’s premises.
Bank spokesman Christian Streckert said: “The investigations are not directed against Deutsche Bank.
“The public prosecutor’s office is investigating private individuals. Deutsche Bank cooperates with the public prosecutor’s office and voluntarily submits all requested documents.”
According to the Public Prosecutor, the country-wide searches are related to a raid last year on Deutsche Bank’s headquarters in Frankfurt.
In November, almost 200 German police raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters as part of a money laundering investigation.
Prosecutors alleged that the bank, via Regula Ltd., helped up to 900 clients hide transactions worth about $350 million.
Read our 2013 story about Deutsche Bank’s use of offshore entities.