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France To Return Stolen Tax Data To Switzerland

by Ulrika Lomas, Tax-News.com, Brussels

28 December 2009


France has taken steps to ease tensions with Switzerland, by agreeing to return information said to have been stolen from a Swiss HSBC branch.

IT expert Hervé Falciani has admitted to passing the information to the French tax authorities, with encryption codes, in July 2008, and the tax authorities have been using that information to secure prosecutions. The files contained some 130,000 names of HSBC clients, around 3,000 of them French. Claims that Falciani had sold the data to the French authorities were denied by Budget Minister Eric Woerth.

The incident has caused a serious deterioration in relations between French and Swiss authorities, particularly as banking secrecy is enshrined in Swiss law. Double taxation agreement (DTA) negotiations between the two countries were recently suspended over the matter, and the Swiss authorities have demanded the information be returned.

The prosecutor’s office in Aix-en-Provence, southern France, has said it would hand back the information; it had seized the data as part of a money-laundering investigation. However, Switzerland remains concerned over what the French tax authorities will do with the data, and has said that doubts still remain over progress on the DTA.


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