French tax probe witness retracts claims, lawyer tells paper

ZURICH Fri Aug 16, 2013 1:55pm EDT

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ZURICH Aug 16 (Reuters) - The lawyer for a Geneva private banker, jailed in Switzerland after claims he held a list of French politicians with undeclared funds in secret Swiss bank accounts, told a newspaper on Friday that no such list exists.

Court-appointed defender Edmond de Braun said his client, former Reyl & Cie banker Pierre Condamin-Gerbier, made up claims in a misguided attempt to alleviate pressure on himself.

"This list never existed. He used that argument to silence the threats that he was receiving at the time," de Braun told Swiss daily L'Agefi. Those included anonymous phone threats and messages left by neighbors suggesting he leave Switzerland.

Reyl has repeatedly denied Condamin-Gerbier's claims.

He was arrested when he returned to Switzerland last month from France, where he had been a witness before a parliamentary commission investigation into alleged tax fraud by former French government minister Jerome Cahuzac.

Cahuzac quit his job as France's budget minister in March after coming under investigation, and said he had a foreign bank account holding some 600,000 euros ($800,000).

Angered by French press coverage of how he was portrayed in the Cahuzac story, Condamin-Gerbier sought to depict a different version and painted himself into a corner by making up the story, defense lawyer de Braun told the newspaper.

"It is the worst thing he could've done," de Braun said.

Last week, a Swiss court ruled to keep Condamin-Gerbier in custody for breaching Swiss secrecy laws after Reyl filed a criminal complaint alleging theft, falsification of documents and violation of professional and commercial confidentiality.

The Geneva prosecutor, a Paris prosecutor and Reyl weren't available for comment. ($1 = 0.7500 euros) (Reporting By Katharina Bart and Stephanie Nebehay. Natalie Huet in Paris contributed reporting.)

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