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Bank data scandal Germany seeks arrest of Swiss secret service members

The German probe has deepened into the activities of people in this building: The Swiss Federal Intelligence Service


German prosecutors have opened proceedings against three members of the Swiss secret services for allegedly spying on their neighbour, according to media reports. The move could further sour relations between the two countries, which have been damaged by an ongoing stolen bank data scandal.

The row first erupted earlier this year when Germany arrested a Swiss national, known as Daniel M, who had allegedly been planted within the German intelligence services as a mole. Daniel M’s task was reportedly to find out the source of leaked Swiss banking data that had been sold to the German authorities.

The Tages Anzeiger and Süddeutschen Zeitung newspapers reported on Monday that three personnel at the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) have now been targeted by German prosecutors. They are alleged to have helped Daniel M carry out his work as a double agent.

Unlike Daniel M, none of the trio have been detained, but media speculates that they could be arrested if they leave Switzerland.

Following the financial crisis, the Swiss financial sector was rocked by a series of data leaks to Germany. Employees at Swiss banks stole sensitive information on clients and sold it in several batches to German states – most notably North Rhine-Westphalia.

According to reports, FIS placed Daniel M in the German tax office as a mole to find out who was behind the data leaks. The Tages Anzeiger had previously reported that the two countries had signed a mutual 'no spying' accord in January of this year, but the alleged offences of Daniel M are thought to pre-date this accord.

In April, Daniel M was arrested in Germany, sparking a war of words between politicians on both sides of the border. The scandal has dragged in Swiss Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter.

The Swiss authorities said they are aware of the arrest in April but have not commented any further on the case. A Swiss parliamentary oversight body is investigating the activities of FIS in relation to the German allegations.

Swiss-German tax evasion row

The tax evasion spat between Switzerland and Germany has been running since the financial crises of 2008 and the subsequent listing of Switzerland as a harmful tax haven by the OECD.

In 2010, the German authorities paid €2.5 million for a list of 1,500 names stolen from a Swiss bank.

Over the past decade, the government of North-Rhine Westphalia has bought at least 11 CDs with data about Germans with bank accounts in Switzerland. They have paid millions of euros to try to recover money hidden by suspected German tax dodgers. 

In addition to providing evidence against individual tax evaders (more than 100,000 hiding in excess of €100 billion), this data also led to Swiss bank offices being raided in Germany and the eventual financial settlement by Swiss banks for tax evasion infringements in Germany.

In May 2015, Switzerland signed an agreement to automatically share tax information with all European Union states, including Germany. Swiss banks started compiling information about EU clients at the start of this year. The Swiss authorities will start to pass on this information from the start of 2018.

On 28 April, 2017, the German authorities arrested Daniel M on suspicion of spying on the German tax authorities.

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