(Bloomberg) -- A former UBS Group AG employee, who fled the country rather than face trial, was found guilty of money laundering by a Swiss court over allegations of the theft and sale of client data to German tax authorities.
Rene S., as Bloomberg has identified him, was sentenced by a court in Bellinzona, Switzerland, to serve three years and four months in prison. He was cleared, however, of more serious charges of breaking the country’s bank-secrecy rules.
He was accused of stealing details on more than 200 clients -- including more than 30 family foundations -- that he allegedly sold to German officials, pocketing 1.15 million euros ($1.15 million). The presiding judge, Miriam Forni, said that Rene S. has fled to Germany, where it is unlikely he would face extradition.
The acquittal on the secrecy charge is the second time in recent months that Swiss prosecutors have lost an attempt to pursue a bank employee over the strictly enforced law, which is considered a key pillar of the banking industry’s reputation for discretion. Rudolf Elmer, a former Julius Baer banker, was cleared in October by the Supreme Court.
Still, prosecutors said they were pleased with the verdict Monday.
“He’s not the first one to be convicted in absentia, at least he won’t be returning to Switzerland now,” said Swiss prosecutor Carlo Bulletti.
Moritz Gall, Rene S.’s lawyer, said it was too early to comment when reached at the courthouse after the trial. Rene S. denied ever being the person who took the data, and Gall argued that the bank had failed to explore tips pointing to other possible perpetrators.
He was also ordered to pay about 127,500 francs in court fees and fines. The court said he was liable for as much as 1.38 million francs in illegal gains, but imposed the lower number because he wouldn’t be able to afford the higher amount.
The judges said Rene S. wasn’t guilty of banking-secrecy violations because his crime was mostly committed in Germany, where Swiss law has no jurisdiction. The native of Basel, on the Swiss border with Germany, could have been sentenced to up to five years in prison for the bank secrecy violation.
Elmer’s acquittal was also based on jurisdictional issues, with the nation’s top court saying it had no authority over the Cayman Islands-based unit that he ran.
Rene S. was convicted of money-laundering over the 1.15 million euros he used to buy and sell an apartment on the Spanish island of Mallorca. He was also found guilty of possession of illegal ammunition after police found hollow-point bullets during a 2013 raid on his home.
(Adds details of conviction from second paragraph.)
To contact the reporters on this story: Mara Bernath in Zurich at firstname.lastname@example.org;Hugo Miller in Geneva at email@example.com
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at firstname.lastname@example.org, Christopher Elser
©2019 Bloomberg L.P.