(Bloomberg) -- Duet Group Chief Executive Officer Henry Gabay appeared in a French court Wednesday after being apprehended as part of a German probe into the Cum-Ex tax scandal.
German officials issued an arrest warrant in relation to alleged infringements that could result in 15 years in jail, a French judge describing the case said at an extradition hearing in Aix-en-Provence. Gabay, who founded the London-based investment holding company in 2002, has not been charged with a crime and agreed to cooperate and turn himself in, which the court said must happen within 10 days.
Gabay is the first person detained outside Germany in the wide ranging Cum-Ex probes, which have ensnared dozens of bankers and financial institutions. A Bonn court in March convicted two former London investment bankers for their roles in the deals. They are appealing the verdict.
“Gabay was stunned when in front of his children, the eldest being 14 years old, and his wife, he was apprehended and notified of this arrest warrant,” Gabay’s lawyer, Jean-Marc Fedida, told the court, after failing to have the proceedings heard in private. “Not only is he not on the run but he would have gone to explain himself.”
The 52-year-old Gabay was detained at the Toulon airport last week on his way back to London, where he lives, in what French authorities called a “judicial retention.” German prosecutors in Cologne said in a statement, which didn’t identify Gabay, that a suspect had been arrested in France as part of the Cum-Ex probe.
Gabay posted bail of 100,000 euros ($113,000) after his detention last week. He remained free after the hearing as long as he stayed at a fixed residence in the south of France.
He told the court that he would have responded to German requests if any had been sent to him.
“If German authorities had reached out I would have gone straight away because I am a regulated professional,” he told the court. “I was never summoned; I never got an email or a phone call.”
Cum-Ex was a trading strategy that’s triggered multiple probes in Germany involving nearly 1,000 suspects and banks around the globe. Authorities have said the trades could have cost the country 10 billion euros in tax revenue.
The Aix judge said that the German prosecutors suspect Gabay allegedly took part, between 2009 and 2011, in a “fraud that would have made the German state about 94 million euros poorer.” He is suspected “of having taken part at the time as head of marketing by posing as a bank agent or a stock broker in helping a company get tax credits in Germany,” the judge said.
“I have nothing to do with the 94 million” euros, Gabay said to the judge. The CEO said that he followed tax lawyers’ advice and never did anything wrong.
‘Not a Crook’
“I am not a crook,” he said. “I didn’t wake up one morning thinking to myself I was going to cheat the German taxman.”
Gabay reiterated in a statement Wednesday his willingness to cooperate with German investigators. He also said that in 2010 he wasn’t a controlling shareholder of Duet. The company managed more than $4.4 billion across hedged and long-only funds, private equity and real estate in 2017, Gabay said at the time.
Gabay “had no role in any part of the business that dealt with dividend arbitrage strategies.” He said those sorts of transactions were run by another team. For the fund to which the allegations appear to relate “he never traded any stock, selected any service provider,” he said. He added that he doesn’t have any background on tax-related trading strategies.
Cum-Ex deals relied on a loophole in tax rules that seemed to allow multiple people to claim a refund on stock dividends for a tax that was paid only once.The Cologne investigation focuses on banks, brokers and asset managers over various roles that were necessary for the Cum-Ex transactions, including buyers, short-sellers and custody banks. Affiliated companies within a group often took on several of these roles.
Fedida said Cologne authorities told Gabay’s German attorney that they’re not yet prepared to talk to Gabay. Fedida said Gabay is willing to meet German authorities at the Nice airport and then will be released on bail after arriving in Germany.
“There’s a plane next Monday at 10:20 a.m. for Frankfurt in which Mr. Gabay hopes he can get on” in agreement with German authorities, Fedida said.
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