Germany accuses Switzerland of sending spies to infiltrate its tax authority

German media reports that federal prosecutors have opened an investigation

Jon Stone
Europe Correspondent
Monday 14 August 2017 15:35 BST
Swiss intelligence agents have allegedly been operating in Germany
Swiss intelligence agents have allegedly been operating in Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

German prosecutors have launched an investigation into three people from Switzerland’s intelligence agency on suspicion that they are spying on the German tax authority, according to the country’s media.

Switzerland, whose banking secrecy laws have long made it a refuge for tax dodgers, has been accused of trying to identify German tax investigators working on a crackdown targeting Swiss banks.

One Swiss national, known under German privacy laws only as “Daniel M, 54”, who is an employee of the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (NDB), has already been charged with espionage.

German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung and two of the country’s public broadcasters, NDR and WDR, cite “trusted sources” saying the three new people identified by prosecutors are also employees of the Swiss NDB.

The German federal prosecutor’s office has thus far not commented on the latest claims, and the names of the three additional men have not been released.

Since 2006 state-level German tax authorities have procured disks and USB drives containing stolen private data leaked from Swiss banks – which have then been used to identify German tax cheats.

Switzerland issued arrest warrants for German tax inspectors in response – but Germany’s government has said it will not comply with them.

The operations have led to a number of high profile apologies by wealthy Germans illegally stashing their money abroad.

Daniel M’s alleged mission was to identify the German tax investigators working on the anti-tax dodging project, it was reported.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has described the ongoing episode as “incredible” and warned it could “wreck” the relationship between the two countries. He has also said he had discussed the affair with his Swiss counterpart Didier Burkhalter.

Switzerland says monitoring of German tax authorities stopped in 2014.

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