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Banking bother Swiss bank Julius Baer confirms data theft

Julius Baer CEO Boris Collardi confirmed the data theft - reportedly its third in ten years

(Keystone)

Swiss private bank Julius Baer has fallen victim to data theft by one of its Zurich staff, chief executive officer Boris Collardi confirmed to the SonntagsZeitung newspaper on Sunday.

“Following tighter checks and a comprehensive internal investigation, we recently discovered a case of data misuse and were able to identify the alleged perpetrator," Collardi told the paper.

The suspected culprit, a Zurich bank employee who purportedly acted alone, has been arrested. No other details are available about the offender.

The SonntagsZeitung said the bank had been in contact with customers in Germany who may have been affected. It said the stolen bank data was on a CD that was in the hands of the North Rhine-Westphalia tax investigators. The bank employee had allegedly received a cash payment for the material.

Last week a German business magazine “Manager Magazin” reported that German tax inspectors had raided clients of Julius Baer in Germany in the latest development in a dispute over untaxed money held in Swiss accounts.

Tax officials in the German town of Aachen told the magazine that they had carried out the raids on the homes of Baer clients whose names were on a CD passed to German authorities.

A spokeswoman for the regional North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Finance told Reuters that tax authorities were repeatedly offered CDs with names of bank clients and had examined their contents.

Swiss banks are under pressure in Europe. The latest reports come after German tax authorities raided Credit Suisse clients last month, while French officials searched the homes of rival UBS employees, deepening the crackdown on foreigners hiding money in Swiss offshore accounts to dodge taxes.

In 2011 Julius Baer agreed to pay German tax authorities €50 million (SFr60 million) to end a tax investigation, while Credit Suisse said it would pay €150 million to end a probe into its employees.

The reported raids come as Germany's main opposition party, the Social Democrats, has threatened to block a tax deal with Switzerland aimed at regularising untaxed Swiss accounts held by Germans, arguing it is too lenient on tax evaders.

Not first time

The SonntagsZeitung reported that the bank Merrill Lynch Switzerland had also been a victim of data theft.

Two weeks ago Julius Baer agreed to buy Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s International Wealth Management business based outside the US and Japan for up to SFr860 million ($879 million).

Collardi said the Merrill Lynch Switzerland incident was "very regrettable".

"But it will not directly affect us. Until the acquisition of the business goes through, sole responsibility for this lies with Bank of America Merrill Lynch," he commented.

This is reportedly the third time in ten years the Swiss private-banking specialist has fallen victim to data theft. In one of its more famous cases, Rudolf Elmer, a bank official who worked for Julius Baer in the Cayman Islands, was dismissed in 2002. He then went public with documents claiming the bank helped tax evaders.

Julius Baer is also currently under fire in the United States, where it is one of 11 Swiss banks under investigation by US authorities looking into allegations the banks helped Americans evade taxes. Talks are on going between the US and Swiss authorities to find a global solution to the crisis.

Julius Baer history

1890
Establishment of Hirschhorn & Grob partnership.
 
1896
Julius Baer becomes member of Hirschhorn & Grob. Bank changes name to Hirschhorn, Uhl & Baer.
 
1901
Julius Baer & Co established after death of Ludwig Hirschhorn.
 
1924
Bank purchases former premises of Swiss National Bank on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, which become its headquarters.
 
1940
First Julius Baer company established abroad with founding of Baer Custodian Corporation on Wall Street, New York.
 
1947
Hans J Baer joins the bank, becoming a partner in 1960, president of the executive board from 1975 until 1993 and then chairman until his retirement in 1996.
 
1974
Establishes business in the Cayman Islands.
 
1980
Baer Holding Ltd goes public with share issue.
 
1990-2011
Continues expansion through acquisitions and establishing banks in Russia, the Middle East and Asia.

2012

Agreed to buy Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s International Wealth Management business based outside the US and Japan.

end of infobox

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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