Anyone looking for traces of the former Maple Bank GmbH in Frankfurt's banking district, such as the logo with the green maple leaf, will no longer find it.

Every correspondence ends up with the insolvency administrator Michael Frege from the law firm CMS Hasche Sigle.

The website of the Maple Bank has long been inactive, and yet there are many references on the Internet about a bank that apparently managed to do it very well thanks to its inconspicuous appearance and small balance sheet total (3.7 billion euros in the 2014 financial year), supervisory authorities and tax authorities about it to deceive real hustle and bustle between 2006 and 2015.

Marcus Jung

Editor in business.

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    The Maple Bank saw itself as a "niche provider in investment banking with a focus on individual strategies", says the final report of the cum-ex committee of inquiry of the German Bundestag in the summer of 2017. At the time, the Maple Bank had already been insolvent for more than a year - it was a victim of theirs own resourceful tricks with the stock group transactions around the dividend date.

    In September 2015, public prosecutors and tax investigators searched the business premises in Frankfurt's Westend.

    Additional demands from the tax authorities

    But nothing was left of the income that bankers generated from the multiple refunds of a capital gains tax that had only been incurred once: the bank was unable to meet additional claims from tax authorities in the amount of more than 450 million euros.

    A small player in the market, but whose businesses caused great damage.

    The financial supervisory authority BaFin imposed a moratorium in February 2016, and the bankruptcy petition followed on the same day.

    2.6 billion euros went to depositors through the deposit protection fund.

    In the insolvency proceedings, Michael Frege was able to pay almost 2 billion euros to the creditors, the Handelsblatt reported in 2019.

    Meanwhile, the former top ranks of the Maple Bank were investigated for serious tax evasion.

    The former Germany boss Wolfgang Schuck and another manager had to be in custody because of the risk of escape.

    Tax attorneys from the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer also came into the focus of the responsible public prosecutor's office.

    According to investigators, they are said to have attested the tax admissibility by means of a courtesy report.

    Ulf Johannemann, once a partner and head of the tax practice at Freshfields, was also temporarily in a Hessian prison.

    Ten years imprisonment threatens

    Starting next Monday, the 24th Economic Criminal Chamber at the Frankfurt Regional Court, chaired by Judge Werner Gröschel, will have to clarify how the former management team at Maple Bank, including long-time boss Schuck, were able to jointly set up trading structures for cum-ex transactions. The period of the offenses listed in the prosecution general's indictment begins in 2006 and does not end until 2015 - i.e. several years after the federal legislature closed the tax loophole with a change in the law. The resulting damage is said to amount to 388 million euros. If convicted of serious tax evasion, there is a risk of up to ten years imprisonment.

    At the request of the FAZ, criminal defense attorney Alfred Dierlamm, who is representing the former head of the commercial department of Maple Bank in the process, said: “It is a very complex, extensive and extremely difficult process.” He expects “a lengthy process”. The court has scheduled appointments well into autumn. In the run-up to the main hearing it can be heard that after the prosecution has been read out, several defense lawyers want to make statements. Dierlamm's client is also said to get involved later on. He had cooperated with the investigative authorities and contributed extensively to clarifying the facts.

    At the start of the trial in the jury room, some places in the dock will remain empty, also due to the corona.

    In 2019, the Canadian owners of Maple Bank reached an agreement with the Hessian tax authorities on the repayment of their profits from the share transactions.

    The law firm Freshfields, which was listed as a minor party in the original indictment, made a voluntary payment of 10 million euros.

    In addition, Judge Gröschel ordered the separation of the proceedings against Johannemann, a former Freshfields colleague and a bank director.

    The criminal justice system currently does not want to carry out a major trial with eight defendants on its premises.

    Public prosecutor's complaint rejected

    The Chamber of Commerce received backing from the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court.

    Last Wednesday it rejected a complaint by the prosecution against the separation.

    The Senate decided that the role of legal advisers was not in such an “indissoluble context” that only evidence could be taken.

    Incidentally, the regional court rightly based its decision on the current pandemic.

    A spokesman for the attorney general did not want to comment on Friday.

    One thing is certain, however: the criminal liability of legal advisors in cum-ex transactions has not yet been clarified.