An expatriate New Zealander is allegedly at the heart of a multi-billion-dollar tax theft in Europe which has been called the "robbery of the century".

Paul Mora, from Christchurch, has been accused by German authorities of tax theft and is due to stand trial in coming months, according to the New York Times.

Along with his business partner Martin Shields, he has blamed for fleecing the German treasury of US$500 million through a scheme known as cum-ex trading.

Mora denies any wrongdoing.

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In a feature published in the New York Times, the New Zealander was named as a central player in the complex form of trading, which led to European governments losing US$60 billion between 2006 and 2011.

French newspaper Le Monde described it as "the robbery of the century" and an academic called it the "biggest tax theft in the history of Europe".

In all, more than 400 suspects and a number of banks and companies are being pursued by German officials.

Mora, who went to St Bede's College and Canterbury University, was described by the Times as a "beefy, 6-foot-2 New Zealander with an apparent fondness for Hawaiian shirts".

He met Shields, an Irish mathematician, at the London office of investment bank Merrill Lynch in 2004.

It was in that office where the Times said cum-ex trading appeared to have originated.

The trading, through a complicated series of transactions, allowed the trader to get two refunds for dividend tax on a single set of shares. Cum-ex traders insisted it was legal, but German authorities ruled in 2012 that it was against the law.

A German court has now ruled that it is a felony offence, meaning any convictions could lead to heavy penalties and jail terms.

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Mora and Shields later moved to the London branch of a Munich-based bank, HypoVereinsbank. That bank was raided by German authorities, who reclaimed US$160 million in fines and repayments.

By then, the two men had already left and formed their own company, Ballance Capital, to focus on cum-ex trading.

The tax trades finally came to a halt when a clerk in a German tax office in Bonn uncovered tax refund applications in 2011 and reported them.

The Times said German authorities were looking to make an example of Shields, whose trial began in September.

Mora was indicted in December and will be tried in coming months, the newspaper said.

He is believed to be in New Zealand and has not appeared in German courts so far.

"If the Bonn trial ends in convictions, stiff penalties are expected," the Times article said.

Companies Office shows that Mora still has a number of business interests in New Zealand, and is listed as the director of several Christchurch-based companies.