Berlin: Under fire from politicians and judges for "attempting to influence the judiciary," Juergen Fitschen, who along with India-born Anshu Jain is the co-CEO of Deutsche Bank, has publicly apologised for making a complaint to Hessen state's Premier about a police raid at the bank's headquarters in Frankfurt.
Fitschen, who has been at the helm of the largest German lender together with Jain since June, regretted that his call to Hessen Premier Volker Bouffier last Thursday provoked harsh criticism.
"My call was with good intentions," he told Frankfurrter Allgemeine Zeitung in an interview published today.
He said he wanted to convey to Bouffier his deep concern over how the massive raid involving more than 500 police officials and tax inspectors will be viewed abroad.
"Independence of the judiciary is very precious also for me. If my call created a wrong impression among the public, I would like to apologise for that," he told the newspaper.
Fitschen said that Deutsche Bank will fully cooperate with the state prosecutor's office in Frankfurt investigating allegations of tax fraud and money laundering related to the European Union's carbon trade scheme.
Deutsche Bank is accused of aiding and abetting a scheme devised by a ring of international traders to evade paying around 300 million euros in value added tax in the trade of emission certificates between 2009 and 2010.
In December last year, a regional court in Frankfurt sentenced six men of different nationalities to imprisonment after finding them guilty of tax evasion in emissions trade.
The state prosecutor in Frankfurt has been investigating 25 employees of Deutsche Bank on charges of complicity in tax evasion and money laundering.
Last week, six of them were arrested and a magistrate in Frankfurt later ordered to keep five of them in preventive custody.
The prosecutor also extended its investigations to Fitschen and to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Stefan Krause because they signed the bank's value added tax statement for 2009.
Fitschen declined to comment on allegations that Deutsche Bank had destroyed e-mails related to the suspected tax fraud in the trade with emission certificates, which the authorities are investigating, the newspaper said.
"We are examining the allegations and will fully cooperate with the investigating authorities," he said.
In spite of Fitschen's apology, accusations against him continued unabated.
Justice Minister of Hessen Joerg-Uwe Hahn, who is also the deputy premier, demanded from him an explanation for making a complaint to the state government about the police raid.
Fitschen must understand that he is facing an independent judiciary, Hahn said in an interview to business daily Handelsblatt.
Finance Minister of the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein Monika Heinold expressed doubts about Fitschen's suitability to continue as co-chairman of Deutsche Bank.
Germany is not a country where criminal investigators will have to stand permanently at the doors of a large bank. Fitschen must understand this, she said.
Carsten Schneider, budget policy spokesman of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), urged Deutsche Bank supervisory board chairman Paul Achleitner to take speedy action to clear up the allegations against the bank.
He should also make sure that the management board fully cooperates with the investigators, Schneider said.
Meanwhile, prominent German judges joined politicians in their criticism of Fitschen.
"It is shocking that a bank chairman believes that he can influence the independence of the judiciary through a telephone call," Christoph Frank, chairman of the Federation of German Judges, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.