UBS to pay billions for helping French clients evade tax

UBS to pay billions for helping French clients evade tax

A French court ordered Swiss bank UBS to pay more than 3.7 billion euros ($A6 billion) in fines for helping wealthy French clients evade tax authorities, wrapping up one of France’s biggest-ever tax evasion trials.

The Paris court convicted Zurich-based UBS of aggravated money laundering and illegal bank soliciting, issuing what French media called a record fine.

One of the world’s largest wealth management banks, UBS slammed the ruling and vowed to appeal.

It denied criminal wrongdoing, saying in a statement that the conviction was based on “unfounded allegations of former employees.”

UBS suggested the ruling was based on French prejudice against Swiss tax practices and insisting that it was only offering “legitimate and standard services under Swiss law that are also common in other jurisdictions.”

The court ordered criminal and civil fines for UBS’ Swiss head office, its French subsidiary and five executives totalling almost $A6 billion. The executives were given suspended prison sentences.

The fines were in line with the prosecutor’s request.

Investigators say the Swiss bank sent employees to solicit wealthy executives or athletes during sport or music events in France, urging them to place their money in Switzerland.

The assets illegally concealed by French clients in Switzerland in 2004-2012 allegedly amounted to some 10 billion euros ($A16 billion).

French national financial prosecutors and UBS representatives initially sought a plea bargain, but UBS rejected the out-of-court settlement — reportedly 1.1 billion euros ($A1.7 billion) — as too pricey.

UBS said at the time that it disagreed with “the allegations, assumptions and legal interpretations being made.”

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