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UBS France under investigation in secret bank accounts inquiry

UBS's premises in Zurich
UBS's premises in Zurich Reuters/Michael Buholzer

The French branch of Swiss bank UBS is under formal investigation for allegedly touting for rich French clients who opened secret accounts in Switzerland. An anonymous tip-off alerted prosecutors to the existence of over 350 undeclared accounts between 2002 and 2007.

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Investigators suspect UBS’s Swiss staff of illegally approaching French citizens to incite them to dodge French taxes and setting up a shadow accounting system to hide movements of capital between France and Switzerland, a legal source told the AFP news agency Saturday.

Dossier: The Cahuzac affair

UBS has also been named as an “assisted witness” in an investigation into money-laundering for tax fraud purposes, the source said.

A former head of UBS France, Patrick de Fayet, a former head of the bank's office in the northern French city of Lille and a UBS executive in the eastern city of Strasbourg are already under investigation.

An anonymous note from a former UBS employee alerted the Bank of France’s regulatory arm, ACP, to the existence of the accounts.

Magistrates have sent Swiss authorities a list of 353 names of people suspected of having held secret accounts in Switzerland, asking for details of their activities.

Former French budget minister Jérôme Cahuzac, one of whose tasks was to track down tax-dodgers, was forced to resign after admitting to holding a secret Swiss bank account, which he later transferred to Singapore.

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