Aside from Jan Marsalek, the overwhelmed executive of Wirecard, German investigators have not tracked down more suspected white-collar criminals than him in recent years: Hanno Berger, 70. Former tax attorney in Frankfurt, he is today one of the main brains outside the tax scandal. This scandal which could have cost German taxpayers around ten billion euros. But unlike Marsalek, where there is still no hot lead, prosecutors are now very close to Berger. He has been in extradition detention in Switzerland for several weeks. And that’s where he can’t get out – at least that’s what German investigators believe.
According to information from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the allegations against “Mr. Cum-Ex” of the two current arrest warrants of the Wiesbaden Regional Court and the Bonn Regional Court of October and November 2020 are apparently so damning that they even convinced the Swiss authorities. They put him in jail – so that he would not run away again, as he did almost nine years ago after a search of his home in Frankfurt.
Berger and many friends would not only have deceived the tax authorities and evaded taxes for a total amount of 392 million euros, more precisely: 391,893,343 euros and 96 cents. He also allegedly deceived wealthy investors whose capital was needed for cum-ex transactions. Cologne investigators accuse him of hiding from donors that the return consisted of illegally refunded taxes. According to NRW’s arrest warrant, Berger would have concealed the risk of a total loss from investors as well as from the biggest beneficiary of the transactions: himself. In the Cologne cases alone, he received more than 27 million euros.
Resistance by criminal complaint
Berger vehemently rejects all this, he continues to resist his extradition: with a criminal complaint against German judges, which must be followed by another criminal complaint against Cologne prosecutor Anne Brorhilker. For the investigator, tackling the cum-ex tax evasion industry has become something of a lifelong job. Cum-Ex means to trade stocks with (cum) and without (ex) dividends. Banks, stock traders and lawyers have been reimbursed for taxes that have not been paid for years.
Berger’s alleged conduct is described in detail in the German arrest warrants and the Swiss arrest warrant for extradition. From 2007 to 2013, the Frankfurt tax attorney partnered with, among others, Hamburg private bank Warburg, a group of companies called Ballance and the Hypo-Vereinsbank (HVB). At Berger’s initiative, it was decided to work in ex-business for years and thus obtain unjustified tax refunds. Berger would have established contact between the main players.
And he would have deliberately tried to undermine the measures of the Bundestag, the federal government and the financial administration, with which these cum-ex agreements wanted to prevent at the expense of the tax authorities. We are talking about a variety of lobbying work to ensure that the cum-ex agreements continue to work. In addition, there is the allegation of allegedly deceiving investors who put millions into two investment funds. The banks involved are said to have only released the millions of loans with which stock transactions were inflated with investor money. According to the Wiesbaden arrest warrant, Berger also had € 2.3 million transferred to Switzerland by means of false invoices and other cover-ups. Berger’s defense attorney Richard Beyer denies it.
German investigators are certain: Berger will remain in detention
Counterfeit bills, cover-up, deception – the allegations against Berger are fierce. But the mere suspicion of tax evasion would not be enough for German investigators to finally get their hands on Berger. If it were just that, Switzerland would probably find it difficult to extradite. However, allegations of deception by investors could lead to Berger’s continued detention. The accomplices are not having fun there. In any case, the German investigators are certain: “He’s finished. Berger will fight in vain against extradition to Switzerland. He would be transferred and then placed in pre-trial detention in Germany, where he would remain until the end of his legal proceedings. Until an acquittal. Or a conviction.
Berger definitely wants to prevent the latter. Especially since the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court (OLG) called the cum-ex deals gang fraud, which criminal lawyers up to and including the Federal Court of Justice see as nonsense. Berger therefore denounced the judge of the OLG in Frankfurt for perversion of the law. Will it help him in Switzerland?
In the extradition proceedings, there is no mention of the OLG Frankfurt decision, but the alleged investor deception occurs. Berger’s defense attorney said on request that the OLG’s decision had been submitted and that it was only then that “proceedings in Switzerland began”.
So far, Berger has had no success with any of the objections to his criminal proceedings which he has raised since his exile in Switzerland in 2012. In addition, the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe recently condemned the cum-settlements. ex as a criminal hold on the tax fund in a case in which Berger was also involved. It would be difficult for him to override this judgment. “I can again expressly point out that Dr Berger is not fighting the windmills, but continues to object to the fact that the cum-ex arrangements he advised are illegal and punishable,” his lawyer said, Beyer, at the request of SZ. . This must be allowed in the rule of law.