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Swiss court blocks French request for UBS banking data

Swiss court blocks French request for UBS banking data

“It’s not concrete enough to suspect all French with a UBS account” when looking for tax evaders. Pictured here: UBS on Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich (Keystone)

Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court has ordered the Federal Tax Administration (FTA) not to provide France with details about 40,000 UBS bank clients with French addresses.

In May 2016, the French tax authorities requested administrative assistance from the FTA. They wanted details about UBS clients who lived or had lived in France. The FTA agreed to help in February 2018, but Swiss bank UBS, along with account holders, filed a complaint.

In a ruling published this week, the Federal Administrative Court in St Gallen said that UBS was right to complain because the French tax authorities had failed to explain why the taxpayers had failed to fulfil their fiscal obligations.

“For the court the case is clear. The French request was a ‘fishing expedition’ – fishing in murky waters. It’s not concrete enough to suspect all French with a UBS account,” economic journalist Charlotte Jacquemart told Swiss public radio, SRFexternal link, on Wednesday.

“The judgement is a big success for UBS, and it took a lot of effort. In a first hearing, UBS struggled to be named a party in the case and to access the French files,” Jacquemart said. “So the verdict rebukes the FTA.”

However, the case can still go to the Swiss Federal Court. Yet this would happen only if fundamentally important questions arise, or if it is a particularly significant case – something the Federal Court will decide.

Switzerland has been exchanging tax data with many countries automatically. This automatic exchange of information makes it easier to flag tax evaders, but it pertains to current and future banking data – whereas the French UBS case had to do with older information.

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