France demands data haul from Swiss bank

Swiss banking giant UBS said on Tuesday it had been ordered to hand over client information to the French tax authorities, amid allegations it orchestrated a vast system of tax fraud in France.

France demands data haul from Swiss bank
File photo: The Local

UBS said the Swiss federal tax administration (FTA) had demanded that it provide information about former and current clients living in France, based on data from 2006 to 2008, following a French request for international administrative assistance.
“Pursuant to the disclosure order, UBS is required to produce the requested information to the FTA,” the bank said in a statement, adding though that it had “expressed its concerns to the FTA that the legal grounds for this request are ambiguous at best”.
UBS said that it had taken measures to inform affected clients, but stressed that many of the accounts affected by the French request have been closed.
The bank said the French request was based on data received from the German authorities, who have previously conducted a range of tax probes involving Swiss banks.
“Certain data related to UBS clients booked in Switzerland was seized during these investigations and also apparently shared with other European countries,” UBS said, adding that it “expects other countries to file similar requests.”
Tuesday's announcement came after French finance prosecutors last week asked for UBS to face trial for allegedly orchestrating a vast system of tax fraud in France, according to a legal source.
France opened a probe into UBS after former employees blew the whistle over the bank's alleged system of setting up dual accounts to hide the movement of capital into Switzerland between 2004 and 2012.
UBS denies the accusations, arguing that its involvement in such financial operations has not been proven.
Meanwhile, the documents Germany handed to French judges last year allowed them to evaluate the assets of French clients held by the bank in 2008 at nearly 12 billion euros ($13.5 billion), according to a source close to the investigation.
However not all involved tax evasion.
UBS has been embroiled in a whole series of similar cases, most notably in the United States where the authorities said the bank used Switzerland's banking secrecy laws to help rich clients avoid the taxman.

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Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

Three former German football officials and ex-FIFA Secretary General Urs Linsi went on trial on Monday in Switzerland over suspicions that Germany bought votes to obtain the 2006 World Cup.

Trial over 2006 German World Cup corruption opens in Switzerland

The three defendants have indicated that they will not be present at the hearing in Bellinzona for a variety of reasons, including fear of travelling because of coronavirus contagion.

Swiss Linsi, 70, former German Football Association (DFB) presidents Wolfgang Niersbach, 69, and Theo Zwanziger, 74, and 78-year-old former DFB General Secretary Horst R. Schmidt are being prosecuted for “fraud”.

They are accused by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office (BA) of concealing from the DFB the true destination of a transfer of 6.7 million euros ($7.6 million today), paid in 2005 by the organising committee to former Adidas boss, the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, via FIFA.

The case of former World Cup organising committee chairman Franz Beckenbauer is being heard separately because of the former Germany captain's poor health.

The investigation was prompted by a report in German publication Der Spiegel in 2015 that Germany had used a secret fund of 10 million Swiss francs (6.7 million euros at the time) to buy votes and obtain the rights to host the competition at the expense of South Africa.

Beckenbauer is suspected of having asked Louis-Dreyfus, to contribute to this fund shortly before the vote on the host in the summer of 2000.

Louis-Dreyfus was allegedly reimbursed by the German Football Association on the pretext of expenses related to a FIFA gala evening, which ever took place.

Zwanziger, Niersbach and Schmidt have also been charged with tax fraud in Germany and the case is expected to come to trial in the coming months. cpb/pb/td