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Germany targets Credit Suisse

Credit Suisse is feeling the heat from Germany Keystone

The state prosecutor in Düsseldorf has opened preliminary investigations into 1,100 clients and staff of Swiss bank Credit Suisse suspected of tax evasion.

Authorities in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, of which Düsseldorf is the capital city, confirmed reports in the Frankfurter Rundschau on Friday that they were basing their enquiries on a recently acquired – and presumed stolen – tax data CD.

The assets of the clients involved were reported to total €1.2 billion (SFr 1.72 billion).

Staff at the Swiss bank were being investigated for aiding and abetting tax evasion.

The news comes weeks after an informant offered to sell to various German states the data of around 1,000 possible tax evaders with bank accounts in Switzerland. This triggered heated debate in both countries.

The Düsseldorf authorities said most cases involved clients in the German states of Bavaria, Baden-Württemburg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse.

Credit Suisse has made no comment.

Series of attacks

Friday’s developments are the latest in a series of attacks on Swiss banking secrecy.

The most damaging tax evasion case involved the activities of Swiss bank UBS in the United States. A year ago, UBS was fined $780 million after admitting helping US citizens to dodge taxes. It also handed over data of 285 account holders.

In September, the Swiss government agreed to transfer the details of 4,450 UBS clients to the US – in effect violating Swiss banking secrecy to prevent a ruinous court case for UBS.

Also last year a former employee of HSBC private bank in Geneva ran away with sensitive client data that he handed over to the French authorities. and agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR