Switzerland warns against using stolen bank data
Sun Jan 31, 7:48 am ET
GENEVA (AFP) – Switzerland's president on Sunday warned foreign governments against using illegally acquired bank data to nab tax evaders, as no deals with criminals should be made under the rule of law.
"Generally speaking we believe that it is difficult for states to use illegal data," said Doris Leuthard after German press reports that a secret informant had offered to sell the German taxman the names of 1,500 Germans who have funds hidden in Switzerland.
"This would mean doing business with criminals, which is against the law," she added.
Leuthard, who spoke to SDA news agency on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, said Switzerland could "not endorse such developments".
She would not confirm the reports from Germany, saying they were "speculation and not official".
"In this particular case we have to analyse things, get official confirmation and abstain from speculation," said Leuthard who is also economy minister.
The disk said to contain the names of the 1,500 Germans with funds parked in Switzerland sparked a moral debate in Germany Sunday as Berlin agonised over paying for what seemed to be stolen data.
According to the media reports, the secret informant approached the German fiscal authorities and demanded 2.5 million euros (3.5 million dollars) for the data that could net the taxman as much as 200 million euros in recovered taxes.
But the affair has raised tricky legal, political and ethical questions with at least one senior German minister expressing doubts over the morality of purchasing the disc.
"Personally, I have a problem with it if one hands over money for something that has come into someone's possession in a legally questionable fashion," Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was quoted as saying in Swiss daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung.
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble has made no comment on the affair but an economic spokesman for his centre-right Christian Union party, Michael Fuchs, came out strongly against paying for the information.
The affair is likely to deal a new blow to Switzerland's jealously guarded banking secrecy which is under siege from several quarters.
On Wednesday, Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said Switzerland and France had resolved a similar spat over data stolen from the Geneva branch of banking giant HSBC.
HSBC Private Bank said the information had been stolen by a former employee who later gave it to French authorities probing suspected tax evasion by several thousand French taxpayers.
Merz said Paris had agreed to send copies of the stolen data, concerning some 3,000 French citizens, to Switzerland, and promised not to transmit it to other countries.
Original Article:Switzerland warns against using stolen bank data - Yahoo! News
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