German mastermind of billionaire European fraud arrested in Switzerland

Attorney Hanno Berger could face up to 10 years in prison. Photo File

The German lawyer Hanno Berger, alleged mastermind of a tax fraud that cost billions of euros to the European coffers, was arrested in Switzerland, a judicial source informed AFP on Friday.

The suspect was arrested on Wednesday in the Swiss canton of Graubuenden (east) by police, pursuant to an arrest warrant from German authorities, the Swiss Ministry of Justice said.

The fraud scheme, called "cum-ex", consisted of buying and selling shares around the day of the dividend delivery, so quickly that the tax administration could not identify the true owner.

This practice led to a scandal in Germany about ten years ago and led to the opening of several judicial investigations in Frankfurt, Cologne or Munich, implicating dozens of defendants, stockbrokers, bankers, lawyers and tax advisers.

The regional court in Wiesbaden (west) hopes to be able to prosecute Hanno Berger, a renowned former lawyer and alleged intermediary of a network of investors who were able to benefit from a tax advantage normally reserved for a single person.

As the interested party opposed his extradition to Germany, the procedure is currently pending in Switzerland, according to this judicial source.

In the event of prosecution, Berger, 70, could be sentenced to a prison term of up to 10 years.

This fraud cost Germany 7.200 billion euros (8.500 billion dollars), Denmark 1.700 billion euros (2.000 billion dollars) and Belgium 201 million euros (238 million dollars) since 2001, according to various European media, including the German chain ARD.

In June, the German court handed down a first sentence of arrest related to the case, against a former director of the German business bank MM Warburg.

AFP

 

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