UBS has been placed under formal investigation for alleged complicity in suspected illegal sales practices, said the French prosecutor’s office on Friday. The Swiss bank said it would continue to cooperate with the French authorities.
The move by the French justice authorities comes a week after a probe into the bank’s French business.
Under investigation is whether UBS offered potential French clients investments that prosecutors allege were designed to evade taxes. This happened in the early 2000s, a source quoted by the AFP news agency said.
UBS said the French decision was not a new issue.
"It has been reported on since early 2012. The decision of the court extends the investigation. We will continue working with the authorities in France within the applicable legal framework to arrive at a resolution to this matter,” the Zurich-based bank said in an emailed statement on Friday.
“UBS fully supports the strategy of Switzerland to limit itself to the management of declared assets. We believe that Switzerland and the countries of the EU need to find a solution for the past. This is an industry issue that UBS has taken significant steps to resolve since 2009. UBS does not tolerate any activities intended to help its clients circumvent their tax obligations."
UBS was also given the status of "supervised witness" on two other allegations related to money laundering and tax evasion rather than being placed under investigation, the prosecutor's office added.
Under French law, being placed under official investigation means there exists "serious or consistent evidence" pointing to probable implication of a suspect in a crime. It is one step closer to a trial, but a number of these types of investigations have been dropped without trial.
Supervised witness is a lesser status which means that a person must be accompanied a lawyer if questioned further.
UBS's French unit was placed under investigation in early June after prosecutors had questioned the unit's CEO Jean-Frederic de Leusse.
swissinfo.ch and agencies