French Court Hits Swiss Bank UBS With $4.2 Billion Fine

By JEFFREY SCHAEFFER and ANGELA CHARLTON, Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — A French court ordered Swiss bank UBS to pay more than $4.2 billion in fines for helping wealthy French clients evade tax authorities, wrapping up one of France’s biggest-ever tax evasion trials.

Dieter Kiefer, former head of wealth management for Western Europe at UBS Group AG, arrives for the the Swiss bank’s trial in Paris, France, on Feb. 20, 2019. A Paris court has ordered Swiss bank UBS to pay $4.2 billion in fines for helping wealthy French clients evade tax authorities. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

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 insisting that it was only offering “legitimate and standard services under Swiss law that are also common in other jurisdictions.”

The court ordered criminal and civil fines for UBS’ Swiss head office, its French subsidiary and five executives totaling more than 4.5 billion euros. 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 $10.75 billion.

French national financial prosecutors and UBS representatives initially sought a plea bargain, but UBS rejected the out-of-court settlement — reportedly 1.1 billion euros — as too pricey. UBS said at the time that it disagreed with “the allegations, assumptions and legal interpretations being made.”

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