UPDATE 1-Swiss lawmaker accuses Berlin of ‘bank robbery’

* Swiss bank secrecy tiff escalates,Germans plan to buy data

* Swiss banking lobby demands return of stolen data

* Swiss interior minister urges diplomatic solution

* Dutch finance ministry also interested in gaining data

(Recasts, adds Swiss, German, Dutch ministry comments; updates

By Madeline Chambers and Jason Rhodes

BERLIN/ZURICH, Feb 2 (BestGrowthStock) – A Swiss lawmaker likened
German attempts to buy data on cross-border tax evaders to bank
robbery on Tuesday and the Swiss banking lobby said Berlin was
acting as a receiver of stolen goods.

Switzerland’s interior minister clearly sought a diplomatic
solution with Berlin in a sharply escalating row with the Alpine
country’s most important trading partner.

“It is very important to have a good relationship between
Switzerland and Germany,” said Didier Burkhalter. “We now need
to find a way — and we will discuss this at Wednesday’s cabinet
meeting — to ensure a stable relationship with Germany.”

Germany has said it is prepared to pay for data on
clients of Swiss banks who may have been evading German taxes
that is being offered to authorities by a whistleblower, even if
the information has been obtained illegally. [ID:nLDE6101VZ]

“In principle, the decision has been made,” Schaeuble told
the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper, adding the legal basis was
similar to a case in 2008 when Germany paid for data stolen from
Liechtenstein’s top bank LGT.

“Therefore we could not decide any differently,” he added.

A Swiss lawmaker criticised Berlin’s latest move in a
simmering row over Swiss banking secrecy.

“Here we have a new form of bank robbery,” Swiss lawmaker
Pirmin Bischof told Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “Before,
you had to go to the bank and get hold of the money with a
weapon. Today you can do it electronically by stealing data.

“This should not be allowed in a country based on the rule
of law,” Bischof added.


A spokesman for the Dutch finance ministry said ministry
officials had contacted German counterparts on Monday after
hearing reports about the potential purchase of account data.

The spokesman said the Dutch would seek copies of whatever
data Germany purchases under information-sharing agreements
between the countries, with the aim of looking for Dutch account
holders who may be in the data.

Switzerland has faced increasing challenges to its banking
secrecy practices. Last year it agreed to relax its strict rules
on client privacy to fend off potential sanctions by the G20
group of leading nations.

UBS (UBS.N: )(UBSN.VX: ), Switzerland’s biggest wealth manager,
settled with the U.S. tax authorities in August by agreeing to
share data on 4,450 clients. But that deal, considered crucial
to UBS’s business in the U.S., is in question after a Swiss
court ruled last month that most of the data cannot be released.

Shares in the two largest Swiss banks, UBS and Credit
Suisse(CSGN.VX: ), were trading 0.3 percent and 1.9 percent higher
respectively, compared to a 0.8 percent gain in the DJ Stoxx
European banking sector index (.SX7P: ).


The threat of German tax authorities getting their hands on
the stolen data has caused a stir among some clients of Swiss
asset managers, worried their accounts could be implicated in
the latest tax affair. [ID:LDE6110ZM]

This comes just months after France, another key market for
Swiss private banks, announced it had obtained sensitive data
belonging to potential tax evaders, some of which belonged to
the Swiss private banking operations of HSBC(HSBA.L: ).

The SBA Swiss banking lobby urged Germany to return the data
to the owner: “We expect the German government not to purchase
the data and as such act as a receiver of stolen goods.”

“There is no justification for resorting to illegal methods
of obtaining data,” it said in a statement, adding that any
action against Switzerland could be counterproductive to further
negotiations on issues related to bank secrecy.

German media, which estimated authorities obtained around
200 million euros in tax revenues when Germany bought the LGT
data, are saying the latest whistleblower’s data on 1,500
possible tax evaders could yield 100 million euros.

Authorities have estimated German citizens have 100 billion
euros in Swiss bank accounts.

Stock Research

(Additional reporting by Lisa Jucca in Zurich, Ben Berkowitz
in Amsterdam, Brian Rohan in Berlin; editing by Will Waterman
and Ralph Boulton)

UPDATE 1-Swiss lawmaker accuses Berlin of ‘bank robbery’