German politicians yesterday unanimously criticised the Deutsche Bank co-CEO Juergen Fitschen, following reports he had called a senior politician to complain about a raid on the bank’s Frankfurt headquarters last week.
Mr Fitschen and Stefan Krause, the bank’s chief financial officer, are among 25 staff being investigated on suspicion of tax evasion, money laundering, and obstruction of justice over trade in carbon permits designed to combat global warming.
Images of armed police cordoning off its twin-tower head office in Germany’s financial capital were broadcast across the world on Wednesday, in a new public relations setback for a bank grappling with other legal headaches as well as major managerial and cultural change in the wake of the global banking crisis.
Government supporters said Mr Fitschen thought himself “above the law” in complaining directly to the premier of Hesse, whose state includes Frankfurt. Opponents on the left called for more regulation and a spokesman for conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on her opinion of Deutsche’s managers.
After some 500 tax inspectors, police and public prosecutors had descended on offices of Germany’s biggest bank and homes of some of its staff, Mr Fitschen telephoned Hesse premier Volker Bouffier, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), to complain about the high- profile raid — even though the premier’s office was not directly responsible for overseeing the action.
Aides to Mr Bouffier spoke of shock at a call, which Deutsche Bank confirmed took place but declined to describe in detail.
With a parliamentary election in nine months, parties are keen to show voters they are serious about cracking down on banks and bankers who are seen to have played fast and loose with the rules or indeed to have committed outright crimes.
“Nobody in Germany is above the law. Mr Fitschen is giving the impression that he hasn’t understood this,” Michael Meister, a senior CDU lawmaker said.
Joachim Poss, deputy head of the parliamentary group of the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), said he was astonished by the series of legal problems at Deutsche Bank.
“With their behaviour, the banks are crying out every day for tougher regulations,” Mr Poss said.
Juergen Trittin, leader of the environmentalist Greens party, used the colourful phrase “The fish stinks from the head down” to pin blame for Deutsche’s problems on its leadership.
Asked yesterday whether Ms Merkel supported that leadership, her spokesman Steffen Seibert declined direct comment.
He said the government was following the ongoing investigations.
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