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The UBS Group AG logo sits on the bank's skyscraper offices in Frankfurt, Germany, on Tuesday, July 17, 2018.(bloomberg)
(Bloomberg) -- UBS Group AG doesn’t have to hand over client details to French tax authorities after a Swiss court handed the country’s largest bank a clear victory in a long-running saga over banking secrecy.
The Swiss Federal Administrative Court said in a statement late Tuesday that French officials didn’t provide evidence that “the taxpayers involved have failed to comply with their tax obligations.”
“Simply having an account in Switzerland is not sufficient,” the Swiss court concluded. “The explanations delivered by the French authorities were insufficient.”
UBS has been fighting efforts by French tax authorities to force it to turn over customer data for years as Swiss banking secrecy rules have been under siege from U.S. and European tax authorities. The request from France is based on information it received from German authorities, who seized data as part of their own tax probe.
French tax authorities, who can appeal Tuesday’s decision to the Swiss Supreme Court, couldn’t immediately be reached to comment.
“The decision confirms our initial view that the request for administrative assistance is inadmissible,” UBS said in an emailed comment.
France’s tax office filed requests to Switzerland in December 2012 and again in December 2013 for information about taxpayer returns for 2010, 2011 and 2012. Swiss authorities asked the country’s biggest lender to transfer the information two years ago based on the request.
UBS challenged the proceedings in court, saying France wasn’t specific enough about the data it was seeking. The Federal Administrative Court made UBS a party to the French tax office’s request in an October 2016 ruling, allowing the bank to appeal and paving the way for Tuesday’s decision.
In another case that remains outstanding, the bank has been ordered to stand trial in France in a long-running investigation into allegations that the Swiss bank helped wealthy clients avoid taxes.
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