January 14, 2016 / 8:11 AM / 4 years ago

German prosecutors launch 2,000 tax cases against UBS clients: paper

The logo of Swiss bank UBS is seen at an office building in Zurich July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - Prosecutors investigating tax fraud in Germany by clients of Swiss bank UBS have launched around 2,000 proceedings, German paper WAZ quoted a state prosecutor as saying.

UBS is one of several Swiss banks that got caught up in investigations into personal tax evasion as cash-strapped governments chased accounts hidden in Zurich, Geneva and Ticino, where wealthy Europeans had taken advantage of Switzerland’s banking secrecy rules.

Investigations into tax dodging began after the state of North Rhine-Westphalia bought a CD containing details of UBS customers in 2012, which related to assets worth 3.5 billion Swiss francs ($3.5 billion).

Prosecutors have won criminal convictions in 14 cases so far, Bochum senior prosecutor Bernd Bieniossek told the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) newspaper in an interview published on Thursday.

Nearly all of those convicted had to pay fines, while a few were given suspended prison sentences.

A further 340 cases were closed without criminal charges in exchange for fines totaling 16.4 million euros ($17.8 million), while other cases were dismissed or referred to prosecutors outside North Rhine-Westphalia, the prosecutor said.

Bieniossek told the paper that 400 cases were still pending in Bochum.

In 2014, UBS paid 300 million euros to settle claims by German authorities that it helped wealthy Germans to dodge taxes.

A UBS spokesman said this had resolved the matter for the bank. Since the end of 2014, all German clients have provided evidence of their tax compliancy, he added.

Reporting by Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan; Additional reporting by John Miller; Editing by Mark Potter

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