Monday, July 16, 2012

Suddeutsche reports leak of CD data implicating British Coutts bank in tax evasion

Suddeutsche has reported that the state of North-Rhine Westphalia has purchased a leaked CD holding account data relating to around one thousand German clients of the Zurich branch of British private bank Coutts, famously banker to the reigning British monarch. This happens at a particularly sensitive time for the German government, which hopes to conclude a shoddy little deal with the Swiss government which would prevent German authorities from using leaked data to investigate offshore Swiss accounts.

According to Suddeutsche:

"The purchase of a tax disc with data on approximately 1,000 customers of the Zurich branch of the private bank Coutts, North Rhine-Westphalia by tax authorities will probably have political consequences. Because after this business, it has become even more unlikely that the tax treaty between Germany and Switzerland as planned on 1 January 2013 to take effect."
For very good reason TJN will welcome any development that scuppers this unprincipled deal between Germany and Switzerland. It is hard to see any upside to the deal apart from the protection of the crooks who continue to use offshore secrecy to persist with tax evasion, and it is difficult for us to avoid the conclusion that the deal has largely been driven by their political lobbying in Berlin (and London, where the UK has already concluded an equally shabby deal).

The leak also comes at a rather awkward moment for 320 year old private bank Coutts, which has been criticised for taking unacceptable risks in handling the proceeds of crime and was fined £8.75 million earlier this year for handling funds deposited by foreign despots.

Back in Switzerland, however, Suddeutsche reports the authorities are seething with anger. Federal Finance Secretary Steffen Kampeter (CDU), is reported to have said

"Shady CD purchases are not a permanent rule of law principle."
With all due respect, Minister, law enforcement officials have relied on paid informants for centuries, and crooked Swiss-diving (British in the case of HSBC and Coutts) banks are no exception to this rule. With revelations of banking corruption and criminality breaking weekly, whistleblowers have a crucial role to play in cleaning up what has clearly become a rotten industry.

German readers can access the Suddeutsche article here.


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