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German Tax Authorities Look Into Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank Clients

12/03/2012 | 11:57am US/Eastern

FRANKFURT--As part of a broadening effort to clamp down on tax dodgers, German tax authorities are looking into possible tax evasion by clients of Deutsche Bank AG (>> Deutsche Bank AG) and Commerzbank AG (>> Commerzbank AG) in previous years, the banks confirmed Monday.

The inquiries have become public a few days after tax authorities raided the offices of the German unit of Italy's UniCredit SpA (>> UniCredit SpA), HypoVereinsbank, on suspicion of tax evasion.

Inquiries at the banks are another sign that the German government is stepping up efforts to catch tax dodgers, as Germany and Switzerland try to hammer out a tax pact targeting tax evaders.

Daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Saturday that regional fiscal authorities are looking into whether a client company of Deutsche Bank may have abused tax regulations.

In response to the report, Deutsche Bank said Monday that on Dec. 12, 2011, it received a request by the tax authorities to disclose information related to third-party transactions by one of the bank's customers in 2008. The bank said it "has issued the tax statements as required by law," but declined to comment further.

Representatives for the Frankfurt fiscal authorities and the state public prosecutor's office Monday declined to comment further. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office said he couldn't comment further because of "ongoing investigations and particular restrictions when tax issues are concerned."

Commerzbank said Monday that, as part of a regular audit currently underway, the German fiscal authority inquired about certain transactions involving stock dividends conducted by Dresdner Bank's Dresdner Kleinwort investment bank in the years prior to the 2009 acquisition. Commerzbank said it has "fully cooperated with the financial authority."

The bank also said it stopped conducting the transactions in question immediately after it became aware of them after buying Dresdner Bank. Commerzbank declined to comment further.

While HypoVereinsbank has become subject to an official investigation related to possible tax evasion, it is not clear whether authorities will do the same at Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank.

If proven, in the case of HypoVereinsbank, the potential damages would be "around 113 million euros" ($145.8 million) plus interest, a spokesman for the state prosecutor's office in Frankfurt said last week. Last Wednesday, 60-70 investigators, prosecutors and tax officials searched the bank's headquarters in Munich, as well as 12 other locations in a probe targeting eight individuals. The investigations relate to stock transactions in the years 2006-2008, close to the time that dividends were paid, according to HypoVereinsbank.

(Ulrike Dauer contributed to this report.)

Write to Madeleine Nissen at madeleine.nissen@wsj.com and Alexandra Edinger at alexandra.edinger@wsj.com

Stocks mentioned in the article : Deutsche Bank AG, Commerzbank AG, UniCredit SpA
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