Tuesday 23 July 2019

Ex-Swiss banker guilty of sale of tax data to Germany

Bank: UBS paid some $300m in 2014 to settle claims it helped wealthy Germans dodge taxes. Photo: Reuters
Bank: UBS paid some $300m in 2014 to settle claims it helped wealthy Germans dodge taxes. Photo: Reuters

John Miller

A FORMER UBS banker accused of selling information about wealthy German tax evaders to German authorities has been convicted of economic espionage by a Swiss court.

Rene S - as the ex-banker is known in legal proceedings - was sentenced to 40 months in prison on charges that included money laundering. He was acquitted of breaking Swiss banking secrecy laws.

It was not immediately clear whether Switzerland would seek his extradition.

He did not attend the proceedings in Swiss Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona this month. He is believed to be living in Germany.

The case is part of a decade-old dispute between Germany and Switzerland over untaxed assets, a fight they hope will fade now that both countries have joined more than 100 others in agreeing to automatically exchange financial data about their residents' international accounts.

Switzerland - whose banks have paid out billions to other countries to settle charges they helped foreigners hide wealth - has aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers who leak banking data.

Prosecutors said that between 2005 and 2012, when he worked for UBS, Rene S. illegally collected data about Germans with accounts at the bank and sold the information for €1.15m to tax authorities in the German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Rene S's lawyer, Moritz Gall, confirmed Monday's verdict and said he expects to appeal. Throughout the trial, Mr Gall has maintained his client's innocence.

Neither the defendant, who is a Swiss citizen, nor his family could be reached for comment.

Lawyers for UBS, which paid some $300m (€264m) in 2014 to settle claims it helped wealthy Germans dodge taxes, contended Rene S waged "an attack on the Swiss financial centre".

UBS declined to comment after yesterday's verdict.

A decade ago, Germans were believed to be hiding about 150 billion Swiss francs in secret accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

North Rhine-Westphalia has spent €17.9m since 2010 on data that helped it recover nearly €7bn in tax revenue.

Reuters

Irish Independent

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