By Katharina Bart
ZURICH, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A Swiss court sentenced a former Credit Suisse employee on Thursday to a suspended jail sentence of two years for stealing confidential client data from the bank, which was passed on to German officials investigating tax evasion.
The former employee, who had confessed to the theft, received two years probation in lieu of jail time and a fine of 3,500 Swiss francs ($3,700) for breaching Swiss banking secrecy, the court said. The court did not release the thief’s identity or personal circumstances.
His sentencing brings to an end criminal proceedings linked to the theft in 2008 of up to 2,500 sets of data on Credit Suisse clients from the bank. According to the indictment, the plan to steal data took shape after the employee accidentally left a briefcase of client data in the gym where both he and the man who would later become his accomplice worked out.
The accomplice, who Swiss authorities believe developed the scheme to sell the data to Germany, was found dead in his Swiss prison cell just over a year ago in an apparent suicide.
Prosecutors alleged the former employee abused his position at the bank to search for data on wealthy Germans who hid assets from the tax authorities in secret Swiss accounts, recording detailed information on the clients in long hand.
Switzerland’s tradition of strict bank secrecy has come under increasing pressure in recent years as cash-strapped governments elsewhere seek to clamp down on tax evasion.
Credit Suisse, which in September paid a fine of 150 million euros ($194 million) to end the German investigation sparked by the data theft, said it was glad that the thief had received a criminal sentence.
Switzerland has clinched deals with Britain and Germany to tax money stashed by their citizens in offshore accounts and is inching towards an deal with the United States to settle a dispute over banks -- including Credit Suisse -- accused of helping wealthy Americans to dodge taxes.
The employee later passed on the hand-written data on the clients -- who held an average of 2 million francs each with Credit Suisse -- to his accomplice, who in turn struck a 2.5 million euro deal to sell the data to German officials.