A federal court accepts as evidence in a lawsuit data stolen from UBS.
The misfortunes of Swiss banks seem endless. Now their own authorities have dealt a blow to them in the fiscal war that faces their financial institutions and several European countries. The Federal Court has given its authorization to the Federal Tax Administration to assist France in the case of data stolen from the UBS gala affiliate. This decision ends the traditional practice in Switzerland, which prohibited all tax cooperation with foreign states if the information had been stolen.
In this case, the story begins when an employee of UBS France steals a confidential list with information on 600 French clients with account in the Swiss bank. Its objective was «to denounce the tax evasion practices organized within the bank». These data were submitted to the French tax authorities, but one of the French on the list filed an appeal with the Swiss Federal Administrative Court (TAF), which gave him the reason. The TAF then opposed its international cooperation, in the case of fraudulently obtained information, which is «punishable under the laws in force in Switzerland». At a concrete level, what the federal court now establishes is the principle that foreign states act «in good faith» when they use stolen information, radically disallowing and annulling the TAF verdict.
Although the case and the request for French aid date back to 2012, this current precedent presents rather dismal prospects for the Swiss banks, who are thus seen sinking one of the last remaining legal protections. A tax specialist commented that «this judicial decision opens the door to any investigation based on stolen material,» which in his view is «contrary to the principle of good faith governing international tax law.» Last year, Switzerland received 66,553 requests for help in cases of tax evasion. The majority came from France, Spain, Poland, Sweden and Holland. The US did not rank high.