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Swiss target German tax officials

The Swiss authorities have ordered the arrest of three German tax officials, accused of taking part in the purchase of a CD of stolen bank data that was sold to authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Federal prosecutor Michael Lauber confirmed on Swiss public radio on Saturday that there were serious indications of intelligence gathering carried out against the Credit Suisse bank and that a request for judicial assistance had been made.

The German state paid an informant  €2.5 million (SFr3 million) in 2010 for the CD, which allegedly contained the names of around 1’000 bank clients who had stashed their funds in Swiss accounts.

The North Rhine-Westphalia finance ministry had already confirmed a report published by the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, which claims the three investigators are accused of industrial espionage. The officials could be arrested if they enter Switzerland according to the paper.

The North Rhine-Westphalia prime minister, Social Democrat Hannelore Kraft, told the Bild newspaper it was unfair to cast state employees in a criminal light.

“Our investigators only did their duty in hunting down tax evaders who stash their money in Swiss bank accounts,” she said, adding that Switzerland’s attitude would not help the approval by the German parliament of a tax deal with the Swiss.

Kraft is one of several state leaders continuing to block a tax accord with Switzerland aimed at ending the long-running dispute over German tax evaders.

The deal needs approval by the German parliament’s upper house, which represents Germany’s 16 states and where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right government lacks a majority.

The states governed by opposition Social Democrats want tougher terms than originally negotiated.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR