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Tax investigation puts Deutsche Bank ethical standards in spotlight

FRANKFURT -- As Germany's biggest lender, Deutsche Bank has for many people long symbolized everything that is wrong and immoral about the banking sector and its perceived culture of limitless greed.

However, under the new dual leadership of Anshu Jain and Juergen Fitschen, who took over in June, the bank has been making every effort to clean up that image.

It spent years and many millions of euros transforming its twin tower headquarters into an environmentally friendly, zero-emission building.

And Jain and Fitschen pledged to nurture a new corporate culture based on responsibility and accountability.

But Deutsche Bank's squeaky clean new image was looking distinctly tarnished again when dozens of police vans encircled the sparkling new “green” skyscrapers in the early hours of Wednesday and hundreds of investigators stormed the building in search of evidence of widespread tax fraud.

Particularly embarrassing was the announcement that Fitschen himself was under suspicion of being privy to a scheme to avoid paying sales tax in the trading of carbon emissions certificates.

Fitschen, 64, went on the offensive to proclaim his innocence in a number of newspaper interviews on Friday.

“I'm shattered over the accusations against me. I firmly believe they will prove to be groundless,” Fitschen told the mass-circulation daily Bild.

“I feel I am being unjustly treated and will defend myself,” he said.

Asked whether he would resign over the allegations, Fitschen said: “I see no reason to.”

He made similar remarks in a different interview published in the business daily Handelsblatt.

The allegations date back to early 2010 and both Fitschen — a member of the management board since 2009 — and finance chief Stefan Krause are under investigation because they signed off the bank's 2009 valued-added tax declaration.

Fitschen told newspapers that he felt the prosecutors' reaction was “totally exaggerated.”

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