A court in Switzerland has dismissed the appeal of a journalist demanding access to official documents about ex-UBS banker Raoul Weil, acquitted of the charge of aiding tax evasion in the US in 2014.
The decision by the Federal Administrative Court, announced on Tuesday, upheld the earlier refusal of the finance ministry to grant a journalist from Swiss public broadcaster SRF access to their files on Weil.
The journalist, who was conducting research for a documentary about the former head of global wealth management with UBS, saw the request refused on the grounds that the information could harm Swiss foreign policy – and notably relations with Washington.
The finance ministry also justified its position by reminding that many of the trials involving banks accused of infringing US law were still ongoing.
The court backed this decision, claiming that the preservation of Swiss-US relations was, in this instance, more important that transparency in the public interest.
Weil, who headed UBS’s global wealth management section until 2009, was arrested while on holiday in Italy in 2013 and brought to trial in Florida on accusations of aiding wealthy US clients dodge US taxes by stashing their money in Switzerland.
Prosecutors said he was responsible for the evasion of some $20 billion (CHF19.83 billion), a charge that left him facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
However, in November 2014 he was acquitted by the jury and released, whereupon he returned to Switzerland claiming to have been treated as a “scapegoat” by US prosecutors. He later wrote a book about his experiences.
Tuesday’s verdict by the Federal Administrative Court is not definitive and can yet be challenged before the Swiss Federal Court.