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Daniel M.  German court case initiated against suspected Swiss spy

The arrest of Daniel M. at the end of April prompted a diplomatic spat between the two countries

(Keystone)

A German court has initiated proceedings against a Swiss man accused of spying on German tax officials. A trial is set to begin on October 18. 

The Upper Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main announced on Tuesdayexternal link that it had accepted a case filed by German prosecutors against a 54-year-old Swiss national identified only as Daniel M. 

He is suspected of working for Switzerland’s NDB intelligence agency from July 2011 to February 2015 to spy on the tax authority of the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia and to identify tax investigators that were involved in the purchase of confidential Swiss bank client data.

Stolen names

In 2010, the German authorities paid €2.5 million (CHF2.8 million) for a list of 1,500 names stolen from a Swiss bank in an effort to catch tax cheats. Over the past decade, the government of North-Rhine Westphalia has bought at least 11 CDs with data about Germans who have bank accounts in Switzerland.

German prosecutors accuse Daniel M. of obtaining personal data on three tax inspectors from North Rhine-Westphalia, and of recruiting a source of information from the tax administration there. 

“Since the accused gave the data to the [Swiss] intelligence service, it became possible to criminally prosecute the tax inspectors," the court said in a statement.

In April, Daniel M. was arrested in Frankfurt on suspicion of spying for “a foreign power” and has remained in custody. 

The court said October 18 had been scheduled as the start of the trial. Ten other court sessions have been set aside until December 21.

The Swiss foreign ministry has declined to provide details about the case, citing data protection reasons.

Big repercussions

The past few years have seen several cases of secret Swiss bank data saved to CDs that were subsequently sold or given to various countries by whistleblowers. The most infamous case is the HSBC Geneva private bank records that were handed to French authorities by employee Hervé Falciani and passed on to other countries by then-French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde. 

Last year, Swiss authorities charged a former UBS banker on suspicion of selling confidential client details to Germany in 2012. The defendant’s name was withheld. The allegations centre on the sale of a CD in 2012 to North Rhine-Westphalia containing details of UBS customers with assets worth CHF3.5 billion.

UBS is one of several Swiss banks that got caught up in European investigations into personal tax evasion. It paid almost $300 million in 2014 to settle claims it helped wealthy Germans dodge taxes. 

The North Rhine-Westphalia case concerns citizens of seven European countries. In April 2016, it gave 27 European nations stolen bank records of Swiss accounts containing more than CHF100 million in funds.

Some 100,000 tax dodgers have come forward in Germany as a result of authorities getting hold of the data.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/sb

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