May 31 (Bloomberg) -- UBS AG, Switzerland’s biggest bank, is being probed by Belgian authorities over allegations of money laundering and organized crime.
Judge Michel Claise is leading the investigation, Anja Bijnens, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor, said by telephone yesterday.
UBS employees approached wealthy Belgian taxpayers including chief executive officers and sportsmen over a 10-year period, encouraging them to open undeclared accounts in Switzerland, M... Belgique magazine reported, without saying where it got the information. UBS Belgium, the bank’s local arm, helped to organize the transfer of large amounts of money to Switzerland, the magazine said.
“UBS conducts its business in full compliance with applicable laws and regulations,” the bank said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “UBS does not tolerate any activities intended to help its clients circumvent their tax obligations.” It said it was unaware of “any preliminary investigation” of its Belgian operation.
Prosecutors began the probe at the end of last year and it is based on “very detailed” testimony, the magazine said.
European banks are reeling from a series of probes into allegations they rigged benchmark interest rates, manipulated benchmarks in the currency market, helped clients avoid taxes, laundered money and violated U.S. sanctions.
Switzerland’s Credit Suisse Group AG paid $2.6 billion in fines after its bank unit pleaded guilty to helping Americans cheat on their taxes. U.S. authorities are seeking more than $10 billion from France’s BNP Paribas SA for alleged breaches of sanctions on countries including Iran and Sudan.
UBS was fined about $1.5 billion by U.S., U.K. and Swiss regulators in 2012 after a probe into the manipulation of the London interbank offered rate. The Zurich-based lender is still being probed over allegations traders in the world’s largest financial market colluded with counterparts at other firms to manipulate foreign-exchange benchmarks including the WM/Reuters rates.
Chairman Axel Weber said in a May 7 speech that resolving “these issues from the past is a top priority” and the bank is taking a “proactive” approach toward resolving them.
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