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Swiss tax spy ‘acted out of patriotism’


A Swiss man (centre, between his lawyers) has confessed to spying on the tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. (Keystone) - Click to enlarge

A Swiss man accused of spying on the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s (NRW) tax authority has confessed and named names.

In a Frankfurt court on Thursday, the 54-year-old man, identified only as Daniel M., explained via his defence team that he had not acted with criminal intent. Rather his motivation was “patriotism, a desire for adventure, a pursuit of profit, and outrage”.

As a former policeman, he “merely wanted to clarify criminal conduct” and now regretted he had “misjudged the situation”.

He admitted he had received €28,000 (CHF32,700) from the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service for his activities. He also named his handler in this agency.

Daniel M. had been charged with spying on the NRW tax authority and some of its staff for nearly four years up to February 2015. Prosecutors say he was trying to find out how German states obtained CDs containing details of bank accounts held secretly in Switzerland by Germans hoping to avoid paying tax.

They also say he placed a source at NRW’s tax authority, which his lawyers have denied.

The case triggered outrage in Germany but Swiss authorities have defended their efforts to combat the theft of business secrets.

Daniel M., who had been facing up to five years in prison, could now be released with a fine and a suspended jail sentence. His Swiss lawyer said they would have to wait and see whether Daniel M. would be released on Thursday.

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SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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