These operations "take place in the context of five preliminary investigations opened on December 16 and 17, 2021 on the charge of aggravated laundering of aggravated tax fraud, and for some of aggravated tax fraud, relating to the fraud scheme called +CumCum+", a tax scheme on dividends, said the PNF.

"The ongoing operations, which required several months of preparation, are led by 16 magistrates of the PNF and more than 150 investigators of the judicial investigation service of finances (SEJF), in the presence of six German prosecutors of the Cologne prosecutor's office intervening in the framework of European judicial cooperation," added the public prosecutor.

Société Générale, BNP Paribas, Exane (a subsidiary of BNP), Natixis and HSBC are targeted, according to Le Monde.

A spokesman for Société Générale confirmed to AFP that a search had been underway at the group's headquarters since Tuesday morning, without knowing what the purpose was.

The other banks did not immediately respond to AFP.

According to the public prosecutor, "these investigations follow for some a complaint", filed at the end of 2018 by a collective "Citizens in organized gang" around the boss of the PS deputies Boris Vallaud, "or a mandatory denunciation of the tax administration", which would date according to Le Monde at the end of 2021.

The daily also claims that the Directorate General of Public Finances (DGFip) "made its first tax adjustments at the end of 2021" concerning some of these banks "for sums in the tens or even hundreds of millions of euros."

Asked by AFP, the DGFip did not comment. Neither customs nor Bercy had responded either immediately.

A group of sixteen media revealed in 2018 via the "CumEx Files" these suspicions of giant tax fraud.

The amount, initially estimated at 55 billion euros, had been largely revised upwards in 2021 by the consortium, rising to 140 billion euros over twenty years.

The practice known as "CumCum" in financial jargon consists in evading the taxation on dividends that foreign holders of shares in French listed companies must in principle pay.

To take advantage of the scheme, these share owners, small savers or large investment funds, entrust their securities to a bank at the time of tax collection, thus escaping taxation.

The banks would have acted as intermediaries, while charging a commission to the shareholders of shares.

© 2023 AFP