UBS bank 'could face $6.3bn fine' in French tax probe

Judges investigating allegations it illegally helped hundreds of rich French squirrel money to Swiss account

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The Independent Online

France could fine Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, Sfr6bn (£3.9bn) if it is found to have unlawfully helped rich customers avoid tax, according to reports in Geneva.

The bank has already been ordered by the French courts to deposit a €1.1bn (£860m) guarantee while judges investigate allegations it illegally helped hundreds of rich French clients squirrel money away from the taxman in Swiss accounts between 2004 and 2012.

But UBS shares fell more than 3 per cent this morning after Le Temps newspaper reported that  it has seen a French judicial document saying the bank could be fined up to Sfr6bn.

UBS said the basis for any calculations of potential fines was artificial and speculative.

"We cannot control the irresponsible disclosure of confidential documents or their selective interpretation," UBS said in a statement. "This matter is currently still in the stage of a formal investigation and we will continue to defend ourselves strongly."

Former UBS staff  have claimed bankers from Switzerland illegally solicited business in France, encouraging clients of its French subsidiary to open accounts across the border, while they were enjoying the bank’s corporate entertainment at cultural or sporting events, such as the French Open.

 

Its Paris-based private bank also allegedly held parallel accounts detailing clients it called “carnets du lait”, or ‘milk notebooks’ - more commonly used by Swiss dairy farmers.  UBS has said that some  of its bankers used ‘milk notebooks’ to , quite legally, keep track of commissions.

Last month, the bank said it would again appeal against a French court ruling demanding the guarantee payment after an initial appeal was turned down.

Last year the French budget minister - whose department was overseeing a crackdown on tax evasion  - was forced to resign after it emerged that he had an undeclared Swiss bank account.

UBS also paid a $780m fine and handed over data on 4,500 clients in the US in 2009 to settle charges it helped American clients evade tax authorities there.

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