* IT expert stole data on wealthy German and Dutch clients
* Man confesses to selling data on 2,700 Germans
* Middleman, a retired tax official, under investigation
* Switzerland under pressure to lift bank secrecy laws
By Emma Thomasson
ZURICH, June 28 Swiss prosecutors have charged a
German IT expert with selling client data from private bank
Julius Baer in Zurich to the German tax authorities,
they said on Friday.
The man, who was arrested last July and is charged with
breaching banking laws, industrial espionage and money
laundering, had confessed and would therefore face a shorter
trial. They dropped proceedings against his wife.
An accomplice, identified only as a retired German tax
inspector, was under investigation, the prosecutors said in a
statement. A Swiss request for German legal assistance in the
investigation had gone unanswered, they said.
Julius Baer Chief Executive Boris Collardi went public in a
newspaper interview in August about the data theft, which he
said had been discovered due to tighter controls following
similar incidents. The bank declined to comment on
Strict bank secrecy, which helped Switzerland build a $2
trillion offshore industry, is under fierce attack as
cash-strapped governments get tough on tax evasion, with Swiss
banks under investigation in Germany, France and the United
Julius Baer agreed in 2011 to pay German tax authorities 50
million euros ($65 million) to close a tax investigation, but is
still under investigation in the United States for helping
wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret Swiss accounts.
Prosecutors said the IT expert, who they did not name,
collected data on wealthy German and Dutch clients from various
Julius Baer systems between October and December 2011, as agreed
with the German middleman.
He sent 15 emails from his work computer to his private
account with attachments containing client names, addresses,
account numbers, account balances and currencies, they said.
He filtered the data for German clients with more than
100,000 euros, Swiss francs, pounds sterling or U.S. dollars and
sent a sample of the information to his accomplice, who he met
later in Berlin in February 2012, the statement said.
In Berlin he handed over data on 2,700 more German clients
to be transferred to the German tax authorities and agreed on
payment of 1.1 million euros, although prosecutors said they
could only recover 140,000 euros from his accounts.
The man sent his accomplice data on Dutch clients of Julius
Baer in May and June of last year, which he hoped to sell to
Dutch authorities for 400,000 euros, but they turned him down.
Germany and Switzerland struck a deal last year aimed at
allowing Swiss banks to levy tax on Germans clients without
revealing their identities, but it was overturned by the
centre-left opposition in the upper house of parliament.
The German state of North Rhine-Westphalia says it has
bought client data from the Switzerland-based operations of
Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, as well as Merrill
Lynch and Coutts, a wealth manager owned by Royal Bank of
Switzerland issued arrest warrants last year for three North
Rhine-Westphalia civil servants, accusing them of industrial
espionage for buying the bank details of German tax evaders.