A Swiss court has sentenced a German IT specialist who sold data from Swiss bank Julius Baer to the German tax authorities to three years in prison.
The 54-year-old man, who appeared before the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Thursday, agreed to a plea bargain deal with prosecutors. He had been charged with breaching banking laws, industrial espionage and money laundering.
The unnamed German national, a former contract worker, was accused of collecting data on wealthy German and Dutch clients from various Julius Baer systems between October and December 2011.
The man sent 15 emails from his work computer to his private account with attachments containing client names, addresses, account numbers, account balances and currencies, according to the arraignment.
He then filtered the data for German clients with more than €100,000 (CHF123,000), Swiss francs, pounds sterling or US dollars and sent a sample of the information to his accomplice, a retired German tax inspector, who he met in Berlin in February 2012.
There, he handed over data on 2,700 German clients to be transferred to the tax authorities.
A reward of €1.1 million was handed over by the Germans for the records. The man told the court in Bellinzona that he had intended to use the bulk of the money to pay off taxes he owed in Germany.
“The pressure from the finance authorities was pretty great. I saw an opportunity to alleviate the pressure on myself," the man, who moved to Switzerland from Germany in 2005, said.
Another €200,000 was taken in cash to Switzerland and a further €220,000 was given to his accomplice. The accused said he left it to the German middleman to pay the back taxes in Germany, but had no knowledge if this had been done.
Prosecutors said they only recovered €140,000 euros from the man’s accounts. His assets have been seized to guarantee a so-called compensatory claim by the Swiss authorities worth €740,000.
Judges ruled that the man, who was arrested in July 2012 and who had confessed, can serve half his three-year sentence on probation. Including time already served, he could be released in six months.
The bank didn't comment on the sentencing on Thursday.
Strict banking secrecy, which has helped Switzerland build a $2 trillion (CHF 1.9 trillion) offshore industry, is under fierce attack by governments in other countries who are seeking to recover lost cash. Swiss banks have been under investigation in Germany, France and the United States.
Julius Baer agreed in 2011 to pay the German tax authorities €50 million to close a tax investigation but is still cooperating, along with other banks, with a US department of justice probe into their role in aiding tax evasion by American clients.
German parliamentarians last year struck down a deal aimed at allowing Swiss banks to levy taxes on German clients without revealing their identities.
Last week the two governments agreed on giving Swiss banks access to the German market without having to operate a subsidiary there, pending the introduction of new European Union-wide rules on cross-border banking coming into force.
swissinfo.ch and agencies