By Ulrike Dauer
FRANKFURT--German customers of Swiss bank UBS AG (UBS) have evaded paying substantial taxes in Germany, an initial evaluation of a compact disc containing bank details and searches of bank customer premises revealed, a German prosecutor's office said Tuesday.
Around 750 foundations dodged some 204 million euros ($266 million) in tax payments owed to the German government, preliminary proceedings based on the data showed, according to the Bochum prosecutor's office.
The CD, one of several purchased by the financial authority in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia this year, contains bank details related to total investments of more than CHF3.5 billion ($3.8 billion) by 1,300 German UBS customers. Of those, 750 are foundations established under Liechtenstein law and 550 are other capital investments, the office said.
The foundations are based in the states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, Bavaria, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Hesse.
As part of the investigation, prosecutors searched the premises of UBS customers across Germany in mid-November, with further searches expected, a spokesman for the Bochum prosecutor's office said.
Prosecutors are also investigating whether and to what extent UBS staff helped German clients avoid paying taxes.
Although Germany is broadening efforts to clamp down on tax dodgers, the purchase of the CD sparked criticism from Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, who said such actions could jeopardize efforts by Germany and Switzerland to hammer out a pact targeting tax evasion. German opposition parties are blocking the pact in Germany's upper house, as they consider it too lenient.
North Rhine-Westphalia has bought a number of CDs containing German bank customer details since mid-2010 for a total EUR10.3 million pretax, according to the state finance ministry.
There is no official estimate for the assets Germans have parked in Swiss bank accounts without paying taxes on them, but the German labor union representing financial authority employees pegs the amount around EUR150 billion, a union spokeswoman said.
About 135 of the 1,300 cases were known prior to the investigation because the individuals reported themselves, the prosecutors said.
UBS said it "fully supports the concern for German clients to be tax compliant," that it scrutinized its cross-border business in 2009 and adapted the rules where necessary. It also said it "takes disciplinary action against any employee who commits infractions against these rules, up to dismissal."
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