Julius Baer Worker Jailed for Three Years for Breaking Secrecy

A Swiss court sentenced a former employee of Julius Baer Group Ltd., Switzerland’s third-largest wealth manager, to three years in prison for breaching banking secrecy laws.

The 54-year-old, who has already spent about seven months in custody, was found guilty of economic espionage, money laundering and breaches of trade secrets and banking secrecy, the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona said in an e-mailed judgment today. Half the sentence was suspended.

Swiss authorities seized 140,900 euros ($188,000) in cash and ordered the accused to pay compensation of 739,100 euros. They also confiscated cars and collections of watches and coins, according to the judgment, which followed a yearlong investigation by federal prosecutors.

Julius Baer said in August of last year it uncovered a case of client data abuse by an employee and reported the matter to the police. At the same time, the bank contacted German clients because of speculation over data theft and the acquisition of CDs by German authorities trying to catch tax evaders with offshore accounts.

Jan Vonder Muehll, a spokesman for Zurich-based Julius Baer, declined to comment on today’s ruling.

U.S. and European authorities are analyzing information from data thieves, whistle-blowers and client disclosures to probe the alleged role of Swiss banks in fostering tax evasion by wealthy customers.

Tax authorities have increasingly been offered secret bank information since Germany in 2009 prosecuted tax evaders, including former Deutsche Post AG Chief Executive Officer Klaus Zumwinkel, using the information bought from a former computer consultant at LGT, owned by Liechtenstein’s princely family.

Julius Baer agreed in 2011 with German authorities to pay 50 million euros to end an investigation over undeclared client assets in a separate case of data theft.

HSBC Holdings Plc has said it became aware in 2008 that Herve Falciani, a former software technician, stole details on 24,000 accounts from its private bank in Geneva. Falciani cooperated with French investigators who used the data to search for tax dodgers and shared the information with Italian, Spanish and British prosecutors.

Spain’s National Court in May rejected a request from Swiss prosecutors to extradite Falciani because the charges leveled against him don’t constitute a crime under Spanish law.

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