German state buys Swiss data to track tax frauds-reports

Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:36am EDT
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia have bought a CD from Switzerland containing wealthy Germans' bank details as part of a drive to identify tax evaders and are considering buying another two, media reports said on Saturday.

The CD the state has already bought contains the names and bank details of some 1,000 wealthy Germans who are customers of the Zurich branch of Coutts, the private banking arm of Britain's Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: Quote) best known as banker to Britain's Queen Elizabeth, the Financial Times Deutschland said in its online edition on Saturday, citing inside information.

It can be assumed that these customers avoided paying large amounts of tax, the paper said.

Investigators said the clients whose data was stored on the CD had fortunes in the double and triple-digit million area, according to a separate article on Der Spiegel's website, which also said North Rhine-Westphalia had examined 10 percent of the data on the first CD before buying it.

"We are aware of the continued media speculation regarding a potential breach of client data secrecy at Coutts," a spokeswoman for Coutts said.

"Following thorough investigation, we have no evidence to suggest any such breach has taken place," she added.

The state finance ministry neither confirmed nor denied that it had purchased the CD.

"We have no indication that this is correct," said Mario Tuor, spokesman for the Swiss governmental unit tasked with negotiating the tax dispute.

The origin of the CD was not clear but in 2010 several German states including North Rhine-Westphalia said they had bought CDs containing Swiss banking data from whistleblowers to help identify German tax evaders. This led thousands of Germans to declare their financial holdings to avoid risking jail sentences.   Continued...