Prosecutors in Koblenz are investigating whether employees of Credit Suisse helped German citizens avoid taxes, after a wave of raids on the homes of the Swiss bank’s clients across Germany.
The raids follow the purchase of a CD containing details of German customers of Credit Suisse by the southwestern German state of Rheinland Pfalz earlier this year.
According to Rheinland Pfalz’s finance ministry, the CD, which it bought for €4m, contained about 40,000 sets of data. The Koblenz prosecutor’s office said that it had so far begun investigations against 201 clients.
International pressure on tax dodgers has intensified of late. Last week, Luxembourg, which has long blocked European attempts to combat tax evasion with multilateral sharing of data about depositors, said that it might ease its rules on bank secrecy, while Austria, another holdout, has also given signs of a change of heart.
Switzerland has also resisted automatic data-exchange, instead trying to sign bilateral tax deals with other states. However, although it completed deals with Austria and the UK, attempts to reach a deal with Germany failed.
In the absence of a tax treaty, German states have been keeping up the pressure on Swiss banks by buying stolen data – an approach that has caused outrage among Swiss bankers, but been better received in Germany.
Carsten Kühl, Rheinland Pfalz’s finance minister, justified the latest CD purchase, saying that he expected that the information contained on it would bring in about €500m in tax revenues.
“This sum is also proof of the high level of criminal energy with which investment income has been hidden,” he said. “In their investigations, the authorities have to take every approach that is – after careful consideration – constitutionally viable. That includes buying tax CDs.”
In 2011, Credit Suisse paid €150m to settle an investigation against it by prosecutors in Düsseldorf, and since January 1 this year, the bank has been warning customers to put their affairs in order or face expulsion.
“We have been advising German clients for a long time that they should review their individual (tax) situation and resolve any issues where necessary. If this does not happen, we will terminate our relationship with these clients in the course of the year,” the bank said.
David Mathers, Credit Suisse’s chief financial officer, said last year that he expected between SFr25bn and SFr35bn-worth of outflows from the Swiss bank over the “next few years” as a result of efforts to regularise clients’ holdings.
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