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Switzerland Wants German Investigators Arrested on Espionage

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March 31 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland is seeking to arrest three German tax investigators who negotiated the purchase of data on Credit Suisse Group AG clients for economic espionage, a German government spokeswoman said.

The tax investigators from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia negotiated the 2.5 million-euro ($3.3 million) purchase of personal information of clients of Credit Suisse who may have evaded taxes in Germany in 2010. Ingrid Herden, the spokeswoman for the state’s finance ministry, said she couldn’t confirm more details.

The two countries have been trying to agree on a proposal for a withholding tax that would legalize undeclared assets by Germans held in Switzerland by imposing a retroactive income tax. German political parties have been fighting over the proposed tax rate.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said the warrant won’t affect efforts by the two countries to reach such an accord.

“Switzerland has its legal system and we have our legal system,” Schaeuble told reporters today in Copenhagen after meeting with European finance counterparts. “The justice system in Switzerland is just as independent as it is in Germany.”

Switzerland’s public prosecution service confirmed it asked for administrative assistance from Germany in an investigation into the theft of tax data from Credit Suisse.

There is “concrete suspicion” that people inside Germany gave instructions to “spy on Credit Suisse” to gather the data, Jeannette Balmer, a Swiss prosecution spokeswoman, said in an e-mail today, without giving further detail.

To contact the reporters on this story: Richard Weiss in Frankfurt at rweiss5@bloomberg.net; Leigh Baldwin in Zurich at lbaldwin3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net

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