Officials from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia have given further details of the reported purchase of a CD containing data on UBS bank clients, although UBS denies knowledge of the incident.
“UBS is not aware of having fallen victim to data theft,” UBS spokesman Andreas Kern told swissinfo.ch on Friday. “Information as to whether and which UBS clients are affected is therefore of a purely speculative nature.”
Reports of the transfer which first appeared on Thursday in Financial Times Deutschland have given new ammunition to German politicians opposing a tax deal between Germany and Switzerland.
North Rhine-Westphalia’s finance minister Norbert Walter-Borjans on Friday defended the alleged data purchase on public radio and television in Germany.
He called for continued full prosecution of Swiss bank clients evading German taxes. The German-Swiss tax deal that has been ratified by Bern - but not by Berlin - would apply an anonymous lump-sum taxation to German funds in Swiss bank accounts.
“It should not be possible that those who pay penalties on tax evasion should only have to pay a fraction of what the honest taxpayer would pay,” Walter-Borjans said.
The newspaper Financial Times Deutschland also reported Friday that Swiss banks have transferred some German clients’ funds to accounts in Singapore to further protect their identities, information that was also included on the CD allegedly purchased from UBS.
“UBS puts high priority on matters of security in general, and the protection of client privacy in particular,” Kern told swissinfo.ch. “We have not recorded any increased flow of assets to Singapore from Europe. UBS does not encourage or facilitate tax evasion.”
The Swiss finance ministry says it has received no official confirmation of the latest CD purchase.
North Rhine-Westphalia has purchased stolen CDs containing bank data in the past, involving the Swiss banks Credit Suisse and Julius Bär and the Liechtenstein bank LGT.
Walter-Borjans said a total of about €300 million (SFr360 million) had been recouped so far by the authorities from tax evaders thanks to the purchase of stolen data.
North Rhine-Westphalia, led by the Social Democrats, is opposed to a tax treaty with Switzerland, negotiated by the German government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
In March, Swiss authorities issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors over the 2010 purchase of a stolen CD from Credit Suisse containing data on suspected tax evaders.