On Tuesday, French officials conducted raids on five major banks located in and around Paris, including Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, HSBC, Natixis, and BNP’s Exane Bank, over alleged charges of money laundering and fiscal fraud. According to a spokesperson for France’s Financial Prosecutor’s Office (PNF), the preliminary investigation into four French banks and one international bank began at the end of 2021.
Cum-Ex Scheme at the Center of the Investigation; Societe Generale Confirms Involvement in the Raids
Amid the banking crisis plaguing the industry in the United States and abroad, French enforcement authorities on Tuesday raided the offices of several major banks, including HSBC, Societe Generale, BNP Paribas, Natixis, and Exane. The PNF prosecution office noted that the raids were based on suspicion of money laundering and fiscal fraud.
“The ongoing operations, which have required several months of preparation, are being carried out by 16 investigating judges and over 150 investigative agents,” the PNF said in a statement. The raids are tied to an alleged dividend arbitrage scheme known as “cum-cum” or “cum-ex” practices. The practice involves splitting dividends temporarily in order to avoid dividend taxes.
Reportedly, the practice is leveraged by the banks’ wealthy clients to avoid taxation on dividend accounts. The PNF also disclosed that six German prosecutors were involved in the case. The PNF and collaborating prosecutors believe that the alleged fraud has cost governments $108 billion. According to a report by CNBC, Societe Generale was the only financial institution to confirm the office raids. A spokesperson for Societe Generale told The Telegraph that the bank is “part of the investigation.”
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