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French court hits Swiss bank UBS with €4.5 billion euros penalty

Published:Wednesday | February 20, 2019 | 3:25 PM
AP photo

PARIS (AP) — A French court ordered Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, to pay 4.5 billion euros or US$5.1 billion in fines and damages for helping wealthy French clients evade tax authorities, wrapping up one of France’s biggest-ever tax evasion trials.

The Paris court convicted Zurich-based UBS AG on Wednesday of aggravated money laundering and illegal bank soliciting, issuing what French media called a record fine.

One of the world’s largest wealth management banks, UBS slammed the ruling and vowed to appeal.

It denied criminal wrongdoing, saying in a statement that the conviction was based on “unfounded allegations of former employees.”

UBS suggested the ruling was based on French prejudice against Swiss tax practices and insisted that it was only offering “legitimate and standard services under Swiss law that are also common in other jurisdictions.”

The court ordered criminal fines of 3.7 billion euros or US$4.2 billion for UBS’ Swiss head office and 15 million euros or US$17 million for its French subsidiary and civil damages of 800 million euros or US$907 million.

The executives were given suspended prison sentences.

The fines were in line with the prosecutor’s request.

Investigators say the Swiss bank sent employees to solicit wealthy executives or athletes during sport or music events in France, urging them to place their money in Switzerland.

The assets illegally concealed by French clients in Switzerland in 2004-2012 allegedly amounted to some 10 billion euros or US$10.75 billion.