Swiss banks wary of German spies leaking secret customer data

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Germans will face extra scrutiny when applying for jobs with Swiss banks because of espionage concerns, one of Switzerland's leading bankers told local media on Tuesday.

26 February 2008

LAUSANNE - Germans will face extra scrutiny when applying for jobs with Swiss banks because of espionage concerns, one of Switzerland's leading bankers told local media on Tuesday.

Michel Derobert, head of the Swiss private bankers' association, said methods used by Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, to obtain secret banking data from Liechtenstein were "reprehensible" and would lead to extra precautions in Switzerland to protect client privacy.

Switzerland, like its tiny neighbor Liechtenstein, fiercely protects the privacy of banking customers, including foreigners who have deposited more than CHF1 trillion in its vaults.

Germany's recent purchase of confidential client data belonging to a Liechtenstein bank will discourage financial institutions in Switzerland from employing Germans, Derobert told Swiss daily Le Matin.

Berlin has said the BND paid an informant as much as CHF5 million for a list with the names of account holders of a Liechtenstein bank.

The information led to a series of high-profile raids against individuals and businesses in Germany suspected of tax evasion, but also a sharp reaction from Liechtenstein's ruling prince and criticism from leading Swiss politicians and businessmen.

Pierre Mirabaud, the head of the Swiss bankers' association, compared the BND's tactics last week to those of Nazi Germany's secret police. He later retracted his claim that Germany was using "Gestapo" methods.

Thousands of Germans work in Switzerland's rich financial industry, which has caused some friction in the prosperous nation of CHF7.6 million.

[Copyright ap 2008]

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