The Swiss government has defended sending a spy to conduct surveillance on German tax officials, stating that it was routine procedure if international cooperation was not forthcoming. Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since the spy was discovered and arrested in Germany.
The 54-year-old suspect, a Swiss private investigator and former Zurich police officer known as Daniel M., was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany on April 8. He was believed to have been instructed by the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) to spy on tax inspectors in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, who were attempting to identify tax cheats by collecting data on German clients of Swiss banks.
“Obtaining information this way is the usual procedure in criminal investigations, especially when police cooperation or international judicial assistance is not possible,” the cabinet stated on Wednesday in response to a questionexternal link by parliamentarian Edith Graf-Litscher.
The cabinet also confirmed that the surveillance was carried out between 2011 and 2014 and added that the Swiss parliamentary oversight body investigating the activities of FIS will have access to all information on the case.
Following the financial crisis, the Swiss financial sector was rocked by a series of data leaks to Germany. Employees at Swiss banks stole sensitive information on clients and sold it in several batches to German states – most notably North Rhine-Westphalia. These states then used data to track suspected tax evasion cheats, and in some cases handed information on to other countries.