Deutsche Bank Co-CEO Fitschen Probed Amid Kirch Case

Deutsche Bank AG co-Chief Executive Officer Juergen Fitschen, already facing a tax evasion case, was added to suspects in a probe of former bank executives’ testimony in a lawsuit filed by Leo Kirch’s media group.

Munich prosecutors told Fitschen he is being investigated over “suspicion that incorrect information was deliberately provided when giving evidence to bring about the dismissal” of an appeal filed by a Kirch Group unit, Christian Streckert, a Deutsche Bank spokesman, said yesterday in an e-mail.

Kirch companies say in lawsuits that Germany’s biggest bank secretly plotted the group’s demise in 2002. Former Deutsche Bank CEOs Rolf Breuer and Josef Ackermann, former Chairman Clemens Boersig and former board member Tessen von Heydebreck are already under investigation over their testimony in the decade-old dispute.

“The bank is absolutely convinced that this suspicion will prove to be unfounded,” Streckert said.

Thomas Steinkraus-Koch, a spokesman for Munich prosecutors, said today the probe was extended to Fitschen. Defense lawyers have been granted access to the files and then have opportunity to comment, he said in an e-mailed statement.

Kirch, once one of Germany’s biggest media tycoons, started his battle against Deutsche Bank after his group filed the biggest German bankruptcy in April 2002. The lawsuits, which continued after his death in July 2011, claim Kirch’s company failed after Breuer questioned its creditworthiness in a 2002 Bloomberg TV interview.

He pursued lawsuits against Breuer, 76, and Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank seeking at least 3.3 billion euros ($4.46 billion).

Bank Liable

Deutsche Bank was found partially liable by a Munich court in December over the collapse of Kirch’s media group. The bank has asked Germany’s top civil court to review the ruling.

That same month, Deutsche Bank said Fitschen was the subject of a separate probe of whether bankers evaded taxes in the carbon market. Five hundred German police and tax investigators raided Deutsche Bank offices in Berlin, Dusseldorf and Frankfurt as part of the investigation.

Deutsche Bank said in December that Fitschen is a subject of the investigation because he signed its tax declarations.

The bank has said it’s cooperating with authorities and that any errors in those declarations were corrected in a timely manner. Fitschen told the media in December that the allegations were groundless.

(Updates with prosecutor comment in fifth paragraph.)
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