German Tax Authorities Paid for Bank Client Data, Bilanz Says

German tax authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia paid 3.5 million euros ($4.4 million) for three sets of data containing information about clients of Coutts, a wealth management unit of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc, a wealth management unit of Merrill Lynch and UBS AG, Bilanz reported, citing unidentified German judiciary sources.

Tax authorities got data on almost 1,000 clients of Coutts, more than 1,000 clients of UBS and a “smaller” number of Merrill Lynch clients, the Swiss magazine reported. The authorities are investigating whether a UBS unit Corpboard Ltd. may have been used to help clients evade taxes through foundations and trusts, the magazine also said.

“UBS restructured its foundations business in the summer of 2009 and no longer offers any new foundations for German clients,” Zurich-based UBS said in an e-mailed statement today. “Foundations and trusts are only permitted for selected markets and subject to the strictest possible regulations on money laundering and tax compliance.”

Olivia Phillips, a spokeswoman for Coutts, said the bank is “aware of the continued media speculation regarding a potential breach of client data secrecy. Following thorough investigation, we have no evidence to suggest any such breach has taken place.”

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