Some German banks hiding Swiss assets

18th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

A Zurich newspaper sent an undercover reporter to deposit untaxed money in German banks.

GENEVA - Some banks in Germany are helping clients hide assets from Swiss authorities, a Zurich newspaper alleged Tuesday, amid a dispute between the two countries over tax evasion.

The newspaper, Tages Anzeiger, sent an undercover journalist to ask various banks about depositing CHF 1 million (USD 845,000, EUR 650,000), including CHF 300,000 of untaxed inheritance.

The daily said a branch of Deutsche Bank in Loerrach, a German border town near the Swiss city of Basel, offered to open an official account with statements sent to Switzerland, as well as an unofficial account for which statements would be stored in the bank.

A Dresdner Bank branch in Loerrach offered a similar service, the daily alleged.

"Both banks offered to hold correspondences on the (undeclared) assets, so that they would not fall into the hands of Swiss tax authorities," the newspaper alleged.

The allegation was rejected by Deutsche Bank.

"Deutsche Bank distances itself clearly from deposits ... that are hidden from tax authorities," the group said in a statement released in Zurich.

Dresdner Bank's spokesman Martin Halusa told AFP, "We are looking into the case."

But he added, "We do not help our clients to avoid taxes."

The Swiss newspaper estimated that as many as two in three clients at banks in the southern German border regions were Swiss.

However, smaller German banks along the border were more cautious about accepting such money, it added.

The report came as Germany continued to pressure Switzerland over its banking secrecy law, as well as its failure to treat tax evasion as a crime.

Critics say the Swiss laws encourage tax evaders to hide assets in Swiss banks. Banking secrecy also restricts the action Swiss tax authorities can take against domestic evasion.

Switzerland earlier in March yielded to international pressure and said it would exchange information with foreign authorities to end tax cheats.

But Germany on Monday expressed doubt that this showed willingness to move towards unrestricted cooperation on tax matters, a claim that provoked anger in Switzerland.

The Swiss foreign ministry described the German statement as "unacceptable".

AFP / Expatica

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