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UBS fails to overturn French tax evasion guilty verdict

Keystone / Sebastian Gollnow

An appeal court in Paris has confirmed that Swiss bank UBS is guilty of having assisted French tax evaders – but reduced the penalty from €4.5 billion (CHF4.7 billion) to €1.8 billion.

Switzerland’s largest bank systematically helped French clients evade taxes between 2004 and 2012 by enticing them to hide their money in Switzerland, the appeal court said on Monday.

In 2019, UBS was originally fined €3.7 billion and ordered to pay €800,000 in civil damages to the French state after walking away from deferred prosecution negotiations.

UBS immediately signaled that it would appeal the 2019 verdict, suggesting that it had been politically motivated. That appeal took place in March 2021 with the verdict being delayed by several months as a judge recovered from an illness.

The guilty verdict is a defeat for the bank that had asked for an acquittal. But the financial penalty is less than half of the original sum demanded and also less than the €3 billion that prosecutors wanted on appeal.

The new €1.8 billion charge consists of a €3.75 million fine, €1 billion of confiscated profits and €800 million in damages. Part of the reason for the reduced penalty is a ruling that the sum should be based on the amount of evaded taxes, not the total amount of assets held at UBS.

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Matthew Allen
When not covering banks, tax disputes, trade, Brexit, the World Economic Forum and FIFA,'s business correspondent can be found playing cricket on various grounds in Switzerland - including the frozen lake of St Moritz. Initials: mga
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