People strolling through shopping malls or train stations across Germany this week saw something different on the billboards that typically advertise chocolate bars or dating sites: the face of a man wanted for suspected tax evasion.
Looking straight into the camera with a blank expression, his hair slicked back, the individual wanted by German Federal Police is Paul Mora. A New Zealand native who became a high-rolling investment banker in London, the 53-year-old has been linked to the dividend-tax strategy known as Cum-Ex that German lawmakers have decried as the biggest tax fraud in history.
Mora made Interpol’s Most-Wanted list this month, leading to the display of his face with a request for information about his whereabouts. In Germany, previously accustomed to grainy black-and-white Wanted posters of left-wing RAF terrorists some decades ago, the public parading of alleged white-collar criminals is something of a novelty. Just recently, images went up seeking help to track down Jan Marsalek, the former Wirecard AG executive, who has gone missing since the payments company went bust last year.
“It’s certainly a declaration of war and marks quite an escalation,” said Marco Mansdoerfer, a criminal law professor at Saarbruecken University in western Germany, calling Mora’s addition on a Most-Wanted list populated with notorious criminals “questionable.” “It shows that prosecutors nowadays have few inhibitions when it comes to white-collar crime.”
Unlike Marsalek, Mora’s current residence is less of a mystery. He lives in New Zealand, and he told a German court last year that he’d skip his tax-fraud trial because of New Zealand’s low Covid-19 infection rate. Besides, he wouldn’t get a fair hearing in Germany, Mora argued at the time.
While Germany and New Zealand don’t have an extradition treaty, Interpol’s so-called Red Notice would restrict Mora’s ability to travel outside his home country. New Zealand police are “fully aware” of the notice and “have been working with German authorities for some time on the matter,” according to a statement by a police official.
A lawyer for Mora called the public display “wholly unnecessary,” given that his client has kept German authorities fully informed and is not a fugitive. Mora will seek to get the public police measures revoked, his lawyer said.
For now, Mora is considered one of Europe’s most wanted fugitives, a status shared with convicted rapists and drug-smugglers, suspects in brutal murders, and one of the most senior figures in the Sicilian mafia. The only other white-collar member of the group is Marsalek.
Authorities across Europe have targeted hundreds of traders and top executives and dozens of institutions as they try to sift through the tax scandal.
Mora moved in a tight-knit London scene that gave rise to Cum-Ex. During his years in the U.K. more than a decade ago, Mora switched from Merrill Lynch & Co. to Credit Suisse Group AG before joining German lender HVB in 2004. There, Mora built up the Cum-Ex practice from 2005 at his desk in London, for which he is now being sought.
Representatives for his former employees declined to comment.
Standing 6-foot-2 (1.89m) tall and heavyset, Mora struck a commanding presence in the financial scene, and his antics are the stuff of City folklore. Mora’s casual nature stood out in the uniform world of London finance, according to people who worked with him. He once turned up to a formal event on the River Main in Frankfurt wearing beach shorts and a colorful shirt, according to one person in attendance. Mora had flown in from a resort in the south of Spain earlier that day but his suit was lost in transit, said the person, who asked not to be identified.
Mora amassed a wealth of contacts across London as he transitioned from one bank to the next.
Together with a group of associates, he bought stakes in the Cinnamon Club, an Indian restaurant set in what was once the Westminster Library. There, the City’s dividend-arbitrage traders would meet to network and celebrate.
The Cum-Ex rush that cost German taxpayers an estimated 10 billion euros ($12 billion) ended in 2012 when the country changed its rules and Frankfurt prosecutors began looking into the deals. Named for the Latin term for “With-Without,” the trades took advantage of laws that lead to multiple tax refunds on a dividend levy that was paid only once.
At HVB — now a unit of UniCredit SpA — his team engaged in the trades openly and with the full backing of senior management, according to the testimony of his former colleagues in the first German Cum-Ex trial in Bonn over 400 million euros in tax losses.
That case led to the conviction of Martin Shields and of Nicholas Diable. Both men had worked with Mora at HVB and hedge fund Ballance — and both later decided to cooperate with prosecutors, sparing them jail time.
Mora chose a different path. By the time a court in Wiesbaden had scheduled trial dates last year, Mora had long since returned to New Zealand. In a letter to the judges last fall, Mora let them know he won’t show up for the proceedings.
A few months later, the posters went up.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)