Swiss send France information on bank account of soccer's Vieira

ZURICH, June 24 Tue Jun 24, 2014 1:15pm EDT

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ZURICH, June 24 (Reuters) - France has asked Switzerland for information relating to a Swiss bank account held, or once held, by retired French soccer star Patrick Vieira, Swiss tax authorities said on Tuesday.

Under a bilateral treaty, France may ask Switzerland for judicial aid in cases where tax is paid in two different countries on the same income, or in cases where authorities suspect tax evasion or fraud.

Tackling tax evasion is an issue French President Francois Hollande is pushing hard to help trim public debt without further stifling France's recession-stricken economy and also because of a tax scandal involving a former government minister.

The request regarding Vieira - first conveyed on Dec. 23 - related to an account at Swiss bank UBS, Switzerland's AFC federal tax administration said in a statement.

No further information was available, including whether the account was still open or why the tax authorities were only making the request public now.

"The AFC is passing on the requested information, received from the holder of the information, UBS in Switzerland, to the relevant French authorities," the statement said.

A representative for Vieira said the 38-year-old ex-soccer player, now in a non-playing role at Premier League club Manchester City, was not immediately available for comment.

UBS declined to comment. The French finance ministry said it would not comment because the matter is confidential.

Last month Swiss authorities said they were cooperating with the French in connection with a Swiss bank account of Vieira's former France teammate Claude Makelele, without elaborating.

Vieira began his professional career with French side AS Cannes and went on to establish himself as one of the top midfield players in the game.

Over an 18-year career, Vieira played for some of soccer's biggest clubs. He was part of France's victorious World Cup and European Championship winning teams in 1998 and 2000, respectively, and captained Arsenal in 2003-04 when the side became the first English team in more than a century to go an entire league season undefeated.

After hanging up his boots in 2011, Vieira worked as Manchester City's football development executive for two years before becoming head of the club's development squad in 2013.

French Junior Budget Minister Christian Eckert told a news conference on May 22 that 23,191 taxpayers had declared "secret" bank accounts to the authorities over the previous 12 months. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin in Zurich, Josh Reich in London and; Yves Clarisse in Paris; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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