Swiss prosecutors are charging three Germans with industrial espionage and violating bank secrecy, according to media reports from both countries on Tuesday. The case dates from 2015.
According to German weekly Die Zeit, the Correctiv research group, German broadcaster ZDF and Swiss magazine Republik, Zurich prosecutors allege that the individuals passed confidential documents to German courts and authorities.
The case could revive ongoing tensions between the two countries regarding bank secrecy; for years, German authorities have tried to obtain details of citizens trying to evade tax in the Alpine nation.
Most recently, in November 2017, a Swiss man was convicted of spying on German regional tax authorities – to pinpoint which inspectors were tracking German clients of Swiss banks – on behalf of Federal Intelligence Services. The man, Daniel M., avoided a jail term.
Lothar Binding, financial policy spokesman for the Social Democrats in the German parliament, was quoted in the media reports on Tuesday as saying that this new case should be examined by Berlin.
“We need to ask what legal basis the Swiss government is following here,” he said. “Perhaps they are trying to set an example to deter others.”
Neither the Zurich prosecutor’s office nor the German foreign ministry commented substantially on the case when pressed by the Reuters news agency. According to the media report, the three individuals – a Stuttgart-based lawyer as well as two bank employees – have denied the charges.