Switzerland charges man with selling bank's client data to Germany

Fri Jun 28, 2013 10:26am EDT
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By Emma Thomasson

ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss prosecutors have charged a German IT expert with selling client data from private bank Julius Baer BAER.VX in Zurich to the German tax authorities, they said on Friday.

The man, who was arrested last July and is charged with breaching banking laws, industrial espionage and money laundering, had confessed and would therefore face a shorter trial. They dropped proceedings against his wife.

An accomplice, identified only as a retired German tax inspector, was under investigation, the prosecutors said in a statement. A Swiss request for German legal assistance in the investigation had gone unanswered, they said.

Julius Baer Chief Executive Boris Collardi went public in a newspaper interview in August about the data theft, which he said had been discovered due to tighter controls following similar incidents. The bank declined to comment on Friday.

Strict bank secrecy, which helped Switzerland build a $2 trillion offshore industry, is under fierce attack as cash-strapped governments get tough on tax evasion, with Swiss banks under investigation in Germany, France and the United States.

Julius Baer agreed in 2011 to pay German tax authorities 50 million euros ($65 million) to close a tax investigation, but is still under investigation in the United States for helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret Swiss accounts.

Prosecutors said the IT expert, who they did not name, collected data on wealthy German and Dutch clients from various Julius Baer systems between October and December 2011, as agreed with the German middleman.

He sent 15 emails from his work computer to his private account with attachments containing client names, addresses, account numbers, account balances and currencies, they said.   Continued...