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Germany carries out Panama Papers raids

David Martin
October 11, 2017

German officials have reportedly seized €2 million from funds embezzled by a former manager at Siemens. The German company's slush fund was disclosed in last year's leaked Panama Papers.

Panama Papers Mossack Fonseca
Image: picture-alliance/maxppp/J. Pelaez

Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has carried out its first investigation after purchasing the so-called Panama Papers from an anonymous informant earlier this year.

According to German media, federal officers seized two million euros ($2.35 million) from an old slush fund owned by industrial giant Siemens. The money was reportedly embezzled into Germany from South America by a former company manager, Hans-Joachim Kohlsdorf.

Read more: Tax Scandal: How Trustworthy is Panama?

A decade ago, the public prosecutor's office in Munich found that Siemens had bribed officials and governments the world over in exchange for lucrative contracts. The seized funds, which were taken from two Commerzbank branches in Frankfurt and Hamburg, are thought to be linked to the company's system of bribes.

Kohlsdorf, who for decades held several important positions at Siemens, was also targeted by investigators then. But charges against him were dismissed due to a lack of evidence that he had ever paid a bribe himself. He currently lives in Mexico, and it remains unclear whether Germany will seek his extradition.

BKA's Panama Papers commission

In July, the BKA agreed to pay five million euros to purchase the Panama Papers, a trove of documents stolen from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca implicating individuals stashing their wealth in offshore tax havens.

The BKA has since set up a special commission made up of 25 intelligence and seven tax investigators, tasked with evaluating the documents and deciding whether to pursue the German nationals implicated.

A joint investigation published on Tuesday by the German Süddeutsche Zeitung daily, as well as broadcasters WDR and NDR, revealed that the BKA is also probing three other cases.

Seven further investigations, and the pertinent documents, have also been handed down to public prosecutors. These are believed to concern fraud, tax offences or money laundering, and include new findings into an old affair implicating Deutsche Bank, as well as the bribery scandal that rocked Siemens a decade ago.

As well as working with intelligence officials in the United States and United Kingdom, German authorities have also provided their counterparts in Iceland with information on former Prime Minister David Gunnlaugsson. The former Icelandic premier was forced to resign last year after the leaked papers revealed that he had managed under-the-table dealings involving an offshore company.

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