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Long legal battle Swiss awarded stolen tax CD payment

The CDs of stolen data and now the spy affair have tested German-Swiss relations

(Keystone)

Switzerland will receive most of the money paid by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) to a man who provided the state with stolen Credit Suisse client data, it has been confirmed.

NRW’s finance ministry paid €2.5 million (CHF2.7 million) in February 2010 for the CD, which contained tax details of Credit Suisse clients, as part of efforts to track down German tax evaders. Most of this sum will now be paid to the Swiss Office of the Attorney Generalexternal link, following a decision by the Swiss Federal Court. On Friday, the Swiss authorities confirmed a report published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper external linkthat the decision was now legally binding.

An Austrian man collaborated with a bank employee to obtain the data. In order to avoid traces of the payment, NRW paid the fee for the CD to banks in Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The Austrian was arrested half a year later in Switzerland. He committed suicide in 2010 while in prison, it has emerged from court documents. A legal battle over the CD money subsequently ensued between the Attorney General’s Office and the man’s heirs.

The Swiss authorities were awarded the funds because they came from the proceedings of a crime, the Swiss Federal Courtexternal link decided. Criminal behaviour could not be rewarded, ruled the judges.

Current spy case link

The case has a link to the current Swiss spy affair, which has seen a Swiss man arrested in Germany on allegations that he spied on the German tax authorities to find out who sold stolen Swiss banking data. The arrest, on April 28, has caused a diplomatic spat between the two countries, a deluge of condemnation from the German side, and red faces in Switzerland. 

In March 2012, Swiss authorities issued arrest warrants for three German tax inspectors over the purchase of the stolen CD in question. The move was based on information provided by the alleged Swiss spy, it has been reported. The three men were accused of inciting the Austrian and Credit Suisse employee to obtain the data.

As Germany did not block the accounts in the €2.5 million case – unlike the banks in Austria and the Czech Republic – part of the money has disappeared. This is why the Federal Prosecutor’s Office will not receive the entire sum.

Since 2010 NRW and other German states have bought several CDs of client data from major banks including UBS and Credit Suisse. They have paid millions of euros to try to recover money hidden by suspected German tax dodgers. 

swissinfo.ch and agencies/ilj

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