Deutsche Bank Raids: Prosecutors Chose to Go Public for a Reason

(Bloomberg) -- When Commerzbank AG was raided a year ago in a tax investigation, the public learned about it only days later when the details started to leak. When prosecutors swept through Deutsche Bank AG’s headquarters Thursday morning, they took a different approach, with hard-to-overlook police cars swarming the front of the lender’s building.

The German legal community knows that prosecutors can be discrete, and some previous visits at Deutsche Bank went completely unnoticed. That prosecutors opted to go high profile for Thursday’s raids indicates a growing anger on the side of the authorities about the bank, said Martin Wohlrabe, a Berlin-based litigation and public-relations expert.

"It looks likes prosecutors clearly wanted to send a message," said Wohlrabe. "It’s a PR nightmare for the bank, and investigators know that."

The reason may be the backdrop of the investigation: While this is a probe into money-laundering allegations, the overall issue is whether the bank helped clients evade taxes. That and the fact that the bank has had a steady flow of legal issues may have tipped the scales for Thursday’s bold move.

The action recalls a scenario from six years ago, when Deutsche Bank had to endure similar ordeal in a raid over a carbon-emission tax scheme. That move caused some outcry and criticism, and Frankfurt’s General prosecutors office, which handles cases requiring extra manpower, changed its media strategy. It now never discloses any names of companies or people it targets.

Their colleagues from the regular Frankfurt Prosecutors office, which is running the money-laundering case, didn’t shy away from naming the bank in a public statement that they sent shortly after the police cars parked in front of Deutsche Bank’s twin towers in the heart of Frankfurt.

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