UBS says to cooperate with French probe into 38,000 accounts

PARIS (Reuters) - The French arm of Swiss bank UBS pledged on Thursday to cooperate fully with French authorities looking into a list of 38,000 accounts held by French citizens at the bank in Switzerland.

Raindrops cover the logo of Swiss bank UBS at an office building in Zurich July 29, 2014. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

“If there have been mistakes, we will recognize them and pay,” the bank said. “Our interest is that all light be shed on this so that the matter be closed as soon as possible.”

Tax authorities forwarded the list to justice officials, a judicial source said, echoing a report in Le Point magazine.

The weekly said in an report on its website that assets held in these accounts amounted in 2008 to 13 billion Swiss francs (now worth about $13 billion).

Le Point said the case arose from Germany, where investigators found files during a search of premises of the bank and sent them to the French tax authorities.

UBS said “very strict control mechanisms are in place at UBS. In this regard, the bank has required for several years that customers show compliance with tax regulations.”

French authorities have challenged the Swiss bank and its French subsidiary on several occasions in tax evasion cases.

In June 2013 UBS was placed under formal investigation for illegal solicitation, in July 2014 for aggravated tax fraud and money laundering and in March 2015 for abetting money laundering. It faces a record 4.88 billion euro fine if found guilty in the last case.

Its French branch was suspected of having canvassed wealthy clients in France to convince them to open bank accounts in Switzerland, which it denies.

(1 = 1.0108 Swiss francs)

Reporting by Gerard Bon and Simon Carraud; Writing by Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Mark Potter