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Tax men raid hundreds of homes

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Tax men raid hundreds of homes
Photo: DPA
17:05 CET+01:00
German authorities launched nationwide raids on suspected tax evaders on Monday, in connection with a probe into several hundred Germany-based clients of Swiss bank giant UBS, a state prosecutor confirmed.

"We are investigating several hundred domestic clients of Swiss bank UBS on

suspicion of tax evasion," said Bernd Bienioßek, a prosecutor in the western city of Bochum.

Some 50 tax investigators took part in the nationwide raids earlier on Monday,

Bienioßek said.

The raids were connected to data recovered from six computer discs purchased by the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), containing information on 7,000 Germany-based UBS clients suspected of hiding cash from the taxman.

Another public prosecutor in the city of Mannheim said last Thursday they were investigating the German branch of UBS over suspected of tax evasion.

UBS chief Axel Weber, also a former head of the German central bank, said in a interview in August that his bank had "zero tolerance" for tax fraud.

But NRW state premier, Hannelore Kraft, told the Bild daily in September that the recently purchased data indicated Swiss banks were offering clients tips on how to transfer cash away from Switzerland to Asia before a planned tax deal between the two countries came into force.

"UBS does not help customers avoid paying taxes," said bank spokesman Dominique Gerster. "In 2009, UBS conducted a thorough examination of its cross-border activities and, where it was considered necessary, adapted its rules."

"Any UBS employee who does not adhere to these rules is punished by measures up to and including dismissal," he added, and emphasised that the bank "clearly supports the need for its German clients to conform to the tax laws."

A tax deal between the two countries, aimed at ending such disputes, is to take effect in January 2013 but still needs to be ratified by both parliaments.

The double taxation agreement, signed by ministers earlier this year, would see German citizens with assets parked in Switzerland's notoriously secretive banks paying a tax rate of 26.4 percent on these holdings.

But opposition lawmakers from the Greens and the Social Democrats have threatened to block the deal in the German upper house, the Bundesrat.

AFP/DPA/jlb

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