Rüstungsfirmen wegen mutmasslichen Schmiergelder untersucht

“Razzias Searched Weapons Manufacturers for Evidence in Bribe Accusations.” Bremen prosecutors confirmed police had searched the offices of two German arms manufacturers on 23 Aug 2013 for evidence in corruption charges brought against the firms. Rheinmetall Defence Electronics and Atlas Elektronik are being investigated for paying bribes to Greek politicians and bureaucrats and for not paying taxes in sales of German submarine equipment to Greece.

Süddeutsche.de said it’s thought each firm paid Greek officials about 9 million euros in bribes or “Schmiergeld,” shmear money, lubrication funding.  The bribery charges go back a long way in time, in Atlas Elektronik’s case to before the current owners’ purchase of the firm. Payments were made to a British “letterbox” company that belonged to a Greek company.

Despite the British background in this investigation, there’s a long history of corruption in German submarine sales to Greece according to Süddeutsche.de. Munich prosecutors have been investigating it for years because an Essen company Ferrostaal caught paying bribes to Athens used to be owned by MAN SE, a transport vehicles manufacturing company based in Munich. Most of the extra Ferrostaal submarines sold to Greece via the shmear were built at ThyssenKrupp shipyards, and Bremen prosecutors say Ferrostaal involvement hasn’t been ruled out yet in the current investigation of Rheinmetall and Atlas.

Prosecutors of multiple German districts have known about these problems for years but reportedly only found enough evidence to take action in 2012. For example, the Süddeutsche wrote that EADS (now Airbus) and ThyssenKrupp are joint owners of naval electronics specialist Atlas Elektronik. After buying the company in 2006 from the British firm BAE, they stopped payment of the bribes in 2007, bribes that had apparently started with a consultant contract in 2002. Atlas informed prosecutors about it in 2010 but nothing happened until further info was received from a 2012 tax audit at Rheinmetall Defence Electronics, they said. Rheinmetall denies all bribery charges.

(RISS toongs firm men   vay gen   moot MOSS lichh en   SHMEAR geld ah   oont ah ZOOCHHT.)

Der Dickmacher

The thickmaker,” sugar. On 23 April 2013 the European and German Cartel Authorities carried out razzias at sugar processing plant company offices in four countries for suspected price fixing from 2004 to 2011. Sugar’s well-meant but interestingly unusual regulatory status in Europe has led to a lack of transparancy that apparently made it possible for pricing questions to arise. By law, 15% of European sugar must be imported from developing countries. European farmers who grow the roots from which the remaining 85% is processed are guaranteed a minimum price, but at strictly controlled quantities. Sugar beet farmers have to sell their product to the sugar-processing factories; very little sugar is traded on the open market. The six largest sugar processing companies control 80% of the European sugar market, writes the Süddeutsche. Two German sugar processors control 40% of the European market. The processing factories set the prices, which do not always track with world sugar prices. German consumers have been paying between EUR 0.60 and 1.00 per kilo (annual consumption averages ~36 kg/year/German). Sugar root farmers were getting 27 euros per ton until 2012 when, after a good harvest, the price jumped to 45 to 50 euros per ton.

Update on 18 Feb 2014: The German cartel authority [Bundeskartellamt] has fined Germany’s three largest sugar manufacturers ~280 million euros for collusion. The companies Pfeifer und Langen, Südzucker and Nordzucker were fined, as well as seven individuals. Südzucker had to pay nearly 200 million euros but Nordzucker’s cooperation substantially reduced that company’s fine.

(Dare   DICK maw caw.)

“Nicht mit Ruhm bekleckert”

“Didn’t dribble glory on themselves,” in predicting the 2008 global financial troubles—from Thomas Thiel’s review of social scientist and publicist Werner Rügemer‘s 2012 book about the world’s three major financial ratings agencies.

In his book, Rügemer discussed the “curious financing model” in which clients pay for the grades they receive. Managerially, Rügemer said, many of the same people are members of the boards of the big three ratings agencies, the companies that own the ratings agencies, and the ratings agencies’ clients. Thiel:

“The deeper Rügemer goes into the ownership relationships, the more there unfolds a conglomerate of hedge funds, banks and companies that is worrying in how functionally interwoven it is. Market leader Standard & Poor’s for example belongs to the media house McGraw Hill, which mainly belongs to large investment funds such as BlackRock and Vanguard. These funds own many companies that are regularly/standardly/by default evaluated by the ratings agencies. In addition, many of the same funds are the shareholders behind Moody’s and S&P, such as the investment giant Capital Group. Seated on the supervisory boards (Aufsichtsrat) of the agencies there are companies like Coca-Cola or the pharma company Eli Lilly, plus banks and insurance companies such as Allianz, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.”

McGraw Hill owns another agency that is very important for setting world oil prices: Platts. Der Spiegel said Platts is the world’s largest energy information service. On Tuesday, 14 May 2013, the EU raided Platts’ London offices and offices of three big European oil companies, Shell (Holland), Statoil (Norway) and BP (UK), seeking information about price fixing allegedly achieved by slight distortions of data going into Platts. If said international oil price distortion occurred, it may have started in 2002.

Background info from the Wall Street Journal: the international “physical-oil market” is worth $2.5 trillion. “Index-publishing firms like Platts derive their prices from self-reported transaction data from participants in deals.”

(Nicked   mitt   ROOM   bah KLECK aht.)

DeuBa

Syllabbreviation for the Deutsche Bank. Whose co-chief, Jürgen Fitschen, has apologized for phoning Hessian governor Volker Bouffier (CDU) after the Frankfurt district attorney’s 500-man razzia on 12/12 (but before the Munich district attorney’s 10-man razzia on 12/20, the latest Leo Kirch-related search of DeuBa premises) to complain that the Frankfurt district attorney’s 500-man razzia may have damaged the Deutsche Bank’s image. Fitschen’s phone call has been roundly condemned by German politicians in a [2011 Anglicism of the Year].

One expert has speculated that Fitschen fell on his sword so that duarch Anshu Jain can remain unfired. I’m wondering how the press learned about the phone call.

Süddeutsche Zeitung journalist Klaus Ott said the Deutsche Bank was warned by the Frankfurt D.A. last summer. “There was a sort of yellow card, a dark-yellow card, half a year ago, and the Deutsche Bank knew that if they didn’t cooperate there would be a search.”

Update on 03 Apr 2014: A blogger reviewing Michael Lewis’s new book on high-frequency trading mentioned an interesting relationship between the Securities and Exchange Commission, Deutsche Bank and the global financial crisis of 2008:

“The SEC’s head of enforcement, Robert Khuzami, was general counsel for the Americas for Deutsche Bank from 2004 to 2009. And who did Lewis reveal to be one of the biggest instigators of the subprime short and related CDO sales? Gregg Lippmann of Deutsche Bank, patient zero of this strategy. Any serious investigation of CDO malfeasance would implicate Khuzami.”
—Yves Smith

(Doy! Bah!)

Umsatzsteuer-Karussell

“Value-added tax carousel.” On 12 Dec 2012 there was a razzia at the Deutsche Bank in which 500 finance police searched its offices and employees’ apartments in several cities for evidence of German Umsatzsteuer tax fraud for CO2 pollution permits sold abroad. Again, the scheme seems to have been to pass the paper back and forth across borders until it was unclear whether the tax due in Germany had been paid, after which the bank printed receipts saying it had and asked the German I.R.S. to refund, in this case, the 19% V.A.T. for the supposedly foreign transaction. Süddeutsche Zeitung described it as the government’s advance payment of V.A.T. to dummy companies that never paid it back and then evaporated. Trade in CO2 pollution permits shot up between 2008 and 2010, and the German fiscus refunded billions of euros to such schemes, according to the Bundeskriminalamt.

The Frankfurt general district attorney, who has been investigating this since 2010, voiced concern that Deutsche Bank employees, among other things, did not report suspected money laundering as they were required to. Germany’s largest bank, DeuBa garnered at least 230 million euros via the scheme.

The first razzia looking for evidence in this carbon emissions trading carousel scheme was carried out in April 2010 (and an unknown person warned the bank the day before). In December 2011 a decision by the Frankfurt District Court [Landgericht] listed instances in which the Deutsche Bank apparently did not care to ask questions about its business partners. Journalist Klaus Ott described some of them in an article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung dated 30 April 2012: “A business account for a furniture store that wants to engage in emissions trading? A business account for a company that doesn’t have any offices yet? A C.E.O. who doesn’t speak German but signs German-language bank papers with no prior translation? No problem! And what about the risk management documents of the company bringing in the new partner? The bank isn’t interested, even though it is well known that something stinks in this industry.” Spiegel-Online reported that in one case a ten-minute conversation sufficed to set up this million-euro deal. People behind the scheme appear to have been located in London.

Update on 20 Dec 2013: Europe’s carbon emissions market is merely ~100 billion euros, Süddeutsche.de wrote, but the continent’s “more vulnerable” “scarcely monitored”  electricity and gas market is about nine times as large. It looks like the carousel tax scheme has been used there too, by Germany’s third-largest utility company EnBW but they’re not the only ones. Europol said that “criminals” used the carousel to avoid ~5 billion euros in value-added taxes in the carbon emissions market, but that the tax fraud may have been correspondingly higher in the bigger market.

The alleged electricity trading carousel was set up quickly, growing very large very fast. At EnBW, for example, tax auditors either found or made an in-house note that in 2011 “tax-free sales increased from circa one billion euros to ten billion euros within one year.” Germany’s F.B.I., the Bundeskriminalamt, was quoted as saying setting up the scheme required specialist expertise and in fact looked rather “organized.”

Süddeutsche.de indicated they learned these details from internal confidential papers from e.g. tax auditors in Karlsruhe and a central corporate I.R.S.-type office in Stuttgart [Zentrales Konzernprüfungsamt Stuttgart]. Europol, German prosecutors from multiple cities and German tax officials from multiple states are said to be investigating.

(OOM zots SHTOY err   car OO! sell.)

Dividendenstripping

Dividend stripping.” A tax avoidance scheme the HypoVereinsBank is accused of, wherein they allegedly transferred customers’ stocks back and forth between German and foreign banks until it was unclear whether the Kapitalertragssteuer had been paid and then claimed more capital gains tax credits than were owed. Reuters and the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that a single Frankfurt investor working with HVB and other banks was told he owed 124 million euros in tax for 2006–08 after the IRS-equivalent refused to accept his capital gains tax break from the scheme; he has been fighting in court since 2011 to get HVB to pay the tax bill. HVB and this investor split the profits 65% HVB, 35% investor. Wikipedia says dividend stripping lost its tax-law basis in 2000, Spiegel says it hasn’t been accepted by German tax authorities since 2007, and Süddeutsche Zeitung says since 2012.

Weird story about the HypoVereinsBank in Spiegel-Online on 30 Nov 2012: A guy accused his ex-wife and other HVB employees of large-scale tax avoidance schemes that moved money to Switzerland, was declared non compos mentis by the Bavarian justice system and has been locked up in a mental institution ever since (2006). The man probably was violent, but he may have been correct about the tax avoidance. He cited names and numbers when he blew the whistle to the Bavarian tax authority, but a judge who was not involved in that case called the tax office and told them not to investigate the bank because the whistleblower was crazy. The institutionalized whistleblower’s case was re-opened in 2013. He was set free  in the summer of 2013, after seven years of confinement. Laws committing people to mental institutions and keeping them there are going to be reformed as a result of his case. This started with an 05 Sep 2013 decision by the supreme court in Karlsruhe, the Bundesverfassungsgericht, which prioritized a review of the whistleblower’s case and announced failures of the various state courts and criteria that need to be met in future.

The Frankfurt district attorney’s HVB razzia last week found a trail leading to “a Swiss private bank.” Süddeutsche Zeitung says it is thought that Swiss banks will be a very fruitful place to investigate this German tax scandal. Deutsche Bank and UBS are now implicated as well.

Update on 16 Dec 2013: HSH Nordbank has been accused of dividend stripping.

(Dee veed END en shtrrrip pink.)

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