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UBS’s Ospel and Kurer avoid criminal charges

Marcel Ospel and Peter Kurer, formerly two of UBS bank’s top executives, will not face criminal charges in connection with a tax-evasion scandal in the United States.

The Zurich prosecutor’s office for economic crimes said on Tuesday that there was no evidence that the former chairmen had broken Swiss laws in the affair.

The office also said there was no proof the men or other senior managers had taken greater risks than a more prudent businessman would have taken.

UBS’s board agreed. “There is no indication that they pursued personal interests to the detriment of UBS,” the bank said in a statement.

UBS employees of the bank’s Cross-Border Private Banking division broke certain American laws and contractual international agreements but such breaches are not punishable under Swiss law.

Switzerland’s centre-left Social Democratic Party had filed a complaint against Ospel and Kurer. The party said the men had tarnished Switzerland’s image with irresponsible behaviour when bank employees under them helped Americans avoid paying US taxes.

In August 2009 the Swiss government agreed to give account details of up to 4,450 Americans suspected of serious tax evasion after UBS acknowledged it had helped thousands of American clients set up offshore accounts out of view from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The bank also agreed to pay a $780 million fine.

The Zurich prosecutor’s office left the door open for future legal action. It said the case would not be shelved entirely and that lawyers would continue to follow developments.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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