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Tax cheats German state to share stolen Swiss bank data

Swiss-German relations have previously been strained by tax evasion scandals

(Keystone)

The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia has passed stolen records of Swiss bank clients to 27 other countries, its finance minister said on Thursday. The data gives details on funds amounting to around CHF100 million ($104 million), some of which may be hidden from tax authorities.

The stolen data was purchased by the North Rhine-Westphalia authorities some years ago and has already netted some €600 million in fines and penalties. Among the banks fined are UBS (€300 million), Credit Suisse (€150 million) and Julius Baer (€50 million).

In addition, some 100,000 tax dodgers had come forward as a result of the data getting into the hands of the authorities, the state’s finance minister Nobert Walter-Borjans said last September.

The secret Swiss bank data is among a number of CDs sold or given to various countries by whistleblowers in the last few years. The most infamous case is the HSBC Geneva private bank records that were given to French authorities and passed on to other countries by then French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde.

On Thursday, Walter-Borjans said he has emulated Lagarde by distributing the records to other countries. There has already been media speculation that it would be shared with Greece.

Walter-Borjans has always insisted that he would help other countries crack Swiss banking secrecy in their efforts to root out tax cheats. “There is a veritable industry of evasion,” he said on Thursday.

Switzerland has greatly relaxed its banking secrecy in recent years and in 2018 will participate in the automatic exchange of tax data with other select countries.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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