The scenes that unfolded in Germany’s banking capital in December 2012 could have been written for a Hollywood script. Together with 500 agents, Frankfurt’s Chief Prosecutor Thomas Gonder turned up at Deutsche Bank’s twin-tower headquarters in Germany’s financial capital to search the premises. Five employees were taken into custody, and preliminary proceedings were launched against a total of 26 Deutsche Bank employees.
Mr. Gonder suspected that they were helping a criminal gang to cheat the government out of €220 million ($247 million) in tax revenues related to the European Union’s greenhouse-gas emissions trading program, which they later tried to cover up. The raid was part of a massive European-wide probe into emissions-trading fraud across the continent that continued until 2010.
Now this episode from the inglorious past of Germany’s largest bank, which remains involved in thousands of legal scandals around the world, is being tried in public. The trial of the first seven Deutsche Bank employees began Monday before the Frankfurt District Court. The bank itself is not on trial.
It was a dramatic start: Lawyers for the defence repeatedly accused the presiding judge, Martin Bach, who has also presided over past cases in the emissions-trading probe, of “prejudging” the outcome and formerly requested that he be removed from the proceedings.
The judge has already scheduled 26 hearings before the end of May. The trial is being watched with great anticipation, because it could bring new details to light that may incriminate some of the bank’s senior executives in the scandal. Although Mr. Gonder has abandoned the investigation against three bankers, the cases against 15 other employees are still pending, said a spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office.
Those still under investigation include current co-Chief Executive Jürgen Fitschen, who retires in May, and the bank’s former chief financial officer, Stefan Krause.