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Suspected Swiss tax spy trial underway in Germany

Suspected Swiss tax spy trial underway in Germany

The German authorities bought 11 CDs with data about suspected German tax dodgers who held bank accounts in Switzerland

The trial in Frankfurt of a Swiss private investigator accused of spying on the tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is underway, but already temporarily suspended.

The 54-year-old allegedly acted on behalf of the Swiss intelligence service trying to uncover a series of thefts of CDs with data on suspected tax dodgers who held money in Swiss banks, according to German prosecutors.

The former police officer is also believed to have planted a mole in the tax authorities – an accusation the suspect has denied.

However, proceedings were suspended temporarily shortly after the opening of the trial on Wednesday for the two sides to find an out-of-court settlement.

About 50 journalists were present in court to report on the trial which was expected to last until December.

Experts said the defendant could face a hefty fine or up to five years in jail if found guilty.

Tarnished relations

Ties between the two countries have been strained ever since the spy was discovered and arrested in Germany in April. He allegedly worked for the Federal Intelligence Service between 2011 and 2015.

Over the past decade, the government of North-Rhine Westphalia has bought at least 11 CDs with data about Germans with bank accounts in Switzerland. They have paid millions of euros to try to recover money hidden by suspected German tax dodgers.

The tax evasion spat has been running since the financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent listing of Switzerland as a harmful tax haven by the OECD.

In 2010, the German authorities paid €2.5 million (CHF2.9 million) for a list of 1,500 names stolen from a Swiss bank.

 
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