French court to rule on $6 billion UBS trial on February 20

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen in Zurich, Switzerland October 25, 2018. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - A French court said on Thursday it would hand down a verdict in the money laundering trial of UBS UBSG.S on Feb. 20, at the end of weeks of hearings during which the Swiss bank faced allegations of helping wealthy French people evade taxes.

UBS denies any wrongdoing.

For more than a month, the bank and six former executives have faced allegations of laundering the proceeds of tax fraud and illegally soliciting clients in France, which could cost the bank up to 5.3 billion euros ($6 billion) if it is found guilty - an unprecedented sum in France.

After a seven-year investigation of UBS’s dealings, the prosecutor has demanded the bank be fined 3.7 billion euros, while lawyers representing the French government are seeking 1.6 billion euros in damages.

UBS’s lawyers say prosecutors have failed to bring material evidence against the bank and that the case is politicised.

“It is difficult now to defend UBS. French people hate banks,” said UBS’s main lawyer Jean Veil. He accused the lawyer representing the French state of xenophobia against the Swiss and demagoguery.

Under French law, those convicted of money laundering can be ordered to pay a fine worth half the amount laundered. The prosecution estimates UBS’s customers hid several billion euros from the French tax man.

UBS lawyers called the size of the possible penalty “irrational” and “extravagant.”

Reporting by Inti Landauro and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Michel Rose and Mark Potter