Swiss Order UBS to Give Up French Account Holder Details

  • Bank says legal grounds for request are “ambiguous at best”
  • Information pertains to UBS account numbers from 2006-8 data

UBS Group AG is fighting a demand that it provide information on French clients to tax authorities, days after Paris prosecutors separately recommended the bank go on trial for helping French citizens evade taxes.

The order from the Swiss Federal Tax Administration concerns UBS account numbers pertaining to current and former France-based clients and is based on data from 2006 and 2008, the Zurich-based bank said in a statement Tuesday. The request from France is based on information received from German authorities, who seized data as part of their own tax probe.

French prosecutors want UBS and its local unit to face a criminal trial over allegations it helped clients evade taxes following a probe that caused the bank to post a 1.1 billion-euro ($1.2 billion) bail to cover a potential penalty, a person with knowledge of the matter said late last month. In 2009, UBS paid $780 million to the U.S. to avoid prosecution, admitting it helped thousands of Americans to evade taxes and agreeing to turn over information on their accounts. The bank also paid about 300 million euros to Germany in 2014 to settle a tax probe.

UBS raised concerns to the Swiss tax office that the legal grounds for the request “are ambiguous at best,” and “lack the required specificity,” UBS said. “To ensure legal clarity,” the bank will ask the Swiss Federal Administrative Court to review the admissibility of the information, it said. UBS also said it expects other countries to file similar requests.

UBS said it’s begun informing clients of the order, including their right to appeal. If the court deems the order admissible, those clients will then have 30 days to appeal that decision, according to Swiss law.

A spokesman for the tax authority declined to comment on the order, citing the terms of the Swiss-French double taxation agreement that prohibit him from doing so.

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