French authorities are searching the offices of several major banks, including Societe Generale, BNP Paribas and HSBC on Tuesday on suspicion of money laundering and tax fraud, a spokesman for the PNF's financial prosecutor's office told Reuters.

The General Society confirmed the searches. The other banks involved could not immediately be reached for comment. The spokesman confirmed earlier reports from Le Monde newspaper that the investigation was related to the stripping of dividends and also affected Exane and Natixis.

The PNF said five investigations were underway linked to so-called "-" practices, through which large fortunes sought to evade dividend taxes through complex legal structures.

"The ongoing operations, which have required several months of preparation, are being conducted by 16 investigating judges and more than 150 investigative agents," the PNF said in a statement issued around noon Tuesday.

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