Swiss seek to arrest German tax inspectors

Three tax inspectors who bought a stolen CD in their chase for German tax evaders have been told they must stay out of Switzerland or face arrest, after a cross-border tax spat turned nasty.

The tax inspectors, all from North Rhine-Westphalia, are wanted for “economic espionage,” Swiss prosecutors confirmed on Sunday.

Arrest warrants have been issued on the trio in the latest development in a long-running spat between the two countries.

“There’s concrete reason to suspect Germany of having given clear orders to spy on Credit Suisse information” Swiss prosecutor Michael Lauber told Swiss radio station DRS on Saturday.

German regional authorities, however, said the inspectors had done “their duty” by pursuing German tax evaders who were hiding money in Swiss bank accounts.

“The real criminals are not our tax inspectors, but those in Germany who exploit the conditions in Germany to accumulate massive profits then disappear into the dust and leave the payments to the honest tax payers,“ said North Rhine-Westphalia state Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans on Saturday.

“The criminals also include those who have made assisting tax evasion their business model,” he added.

In 2010, the Dusseldorf prosecutor’s office raided branches of Switzerland’s second biggest bank in 13 German cities as part a probe of 1,100 clients and bank staff suspected of hiding funds from tax officials.

The raid came after officials in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia paid a reported €2.5 million (3 million francs, $3.2 million) for a computer disc containing information on wealthy Germans linked to the investigation.

This weekend’s latest spat comes as a proposal to make German investors in Switzerland pay the same amount of tax as they do at home seems on the edge of collapse due to renewed resistance from the German opposition.

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Travel: Are neighbouring countries still open to Swiss tourists?

Borders between Switzerland and its neighbours are open. But given high coronavirus infection rates, border nations have tightened their entry requirements.

Travel: Are neighbouring countries still open to Swiss tourists?
Good old days in Paris. Photo by AFP

Yes, people from Switzerland can still to go to France, Germany, Italy and Austria, but it is not as easy as it was before the second wave of Covid-19 swept the entire region.

Of the four states bordering Switzerland, Austria is the easiest to enter.

For the time being, it does not restrict travellers from Switzerland. The borders remain open and no quarantine or Covid test is required for Swiss residents.

Like Austria, Italy has not to date implemented any access restrictions or quarantine requirements for Switzerland. The only condition set by the Italian authorities is that each person entering the country must complete a form declaring that they have not tested positive for Covid-19. Otherwise, it is necessary to observe a 14-day quarantine. 

However, before travelling south of the border keep in mind that Italian cinemas and theaters are closed, and restaurants must stop serving their customers at 6 pm. The authorities have also imposed a night curfew from 10 pm until 5 am.

READ MORE: How will lockdowns in France and Germany affect Swiss residents? 



Since October 30th, France has been in lockdown, which will last until at least December 1st. As such, travel on French territory is prohibited, except in well-defined cases — including trips to get to work, trips to buy essential goods, or trips for compelling family reasons — and on presentation of an ‘exit certificate’.


Unlike France, Germany has not implemented a new shutdown. However, restaurants, bars and leisure facilities like theaters and cinemas are closed until December.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said last week that the country's borders with its neighbours, including Switzerland, would remain open.

Gemany already placed Switzerland on its quarantine list on October 22nd, because Swiss Covid infection rates exceed those of its neighbour.

This means that anyone who enters from Switzerland must be tested on arrival in Germany. The tested person must then quarantine until the result comes through.

But the German state of Baden-Württemberg, which borders Switzerland, exempts Swiss arrivals from quarantine, under some conditions.

For example, those crossing the border from Switzerland to visit family and friends will be permitted to do so without quarantine, provided they do not stay longer than 48 hours. 

Baden-Württemberg's authorities are also allowing residents of Appenzell, Aargau, Basel, Basel-Country, Jura, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau and Zurich to come to Germany without being tested, as long as they stay no longer than 24 hours.