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CRIME

Germany considering tax fraud probe of Swiss bank UBS

German justice officials are weighing a probe of Swiss bank UBS following a television report that allegedly showed staff ready to assist Germans who sought to commit tax fraud.

The spokesman for the prosecutor’s office in the southwestern city of Baden-Baden said officials in Mannheim were “examining” UBS activities, while stressing that it did not mean they were opening a full investigation.

Journalists for the Frontal 21 program of the public broadcaster ZDF had passed themselves off as Germans who sought to place money abroad without attracting the attention of tax authorities.

Fitted with a hidden camera, they reportedly spoke with staff at a UBS branch in Baden-Baden and then with a bank officer in Switzerland. Images of the subjects’ faces were scrambled and their voices transformed.

The program showed what it said was the director of the German branch of UBS, initially saying he would handle “only legal money” but then suggesting several options “if you want more discreet methods.” He proposed setting up a trust in Liechtenstein or an investment in Singapore.

Another purported UBS employee quoted in the report added that necessary documents were to be handled by an internal UBS postal service but could also be transported by car “with German license plates to avoid raising suspicions among neighbours.”

“We are going to investigate the conversation recorded during the programme with regards to UBS,” UBS bank told AFP in a statement. It said the bank’s employees are expected to respect the law and clear internal regulations, adding that “the active aiding of tax evasion is neither permitted in Switzerland nor in Germany.”

The programme was aired following the disclosure last month of a vast German tax evasion scandal. An investigation has been launched of hundreds of Germans suspected of seeking to avoid paying taxes on money placed in Liechtenstein trusts.

The German government said it paid an informer for bank data that led to the biggest tax fraud probe ever in Germany and sparked similar investigations around the globe.

Austria, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United States have launched investigations into their citizens’ investments in Liechtenstein.

Switzerland’s finance minister has criticized Germany’s handling of the affair and launched a fierce attack on foreign critics of Swiss banking secrecy laws.

CRIME

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

A 50-year-old German man was jailed for life Tuesday for shooting dead a petrol station cashier because he was angry about being told to wear a mask while buying beer.

German man jailed for killing petrol station worker in mask row

The September 2021 murder in the western town of Idar-Oberstein shocked Germany, which saw a vocal anti-mask and anti-vaccine movement emerge in response to the government’s coronavirus restrictions.

The row started when 20-year-old student worker Alex W. asked the man to put on a mask inside the shop, as required in all German stores at the time.

After a brief argument, the man left.

The perpetrator – identified only as Mario N. – returned about an hour and a half later, this time wearing a mask. But as he bought his six-pack of beer to the till, he took off his mask and another argument ensued.

He then pulled out a revolver and shot the cashier in the head point-blank.

On Tuesday, the district court in Bad-Kreuznach convicted Mario N. of murder and unlawful possession of a firearm, and handed him a life sentence.

READ ALSO: Shock in Germany after cashier shot dead in Covid mask row

Under German law, people given a life sentence can usually seek parole after 15 years. His defence team had sought a sentence of manslaughter, rather than murder.

At the start of the trial, prosecutor Nicole Frohn told how Mario N. had felt increasingly angry about the measures imposed to curb the pandemic, seeing them as an infringement on his rights.

“Since he knew he couldn’t reach the politicians responsible, he decided to kill him (Alex W.),” she said.

Mario N. turned himself in to police the day after the shooting.

German has relaxed most of its coronavirus rules, although masks are still required in some settings, such as public transport.

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