Market watchdog Bafin probing UBS unit

Financial markets watchdog Bafin is investigating a subsidiary of Swiss bank UBS that German officials suspect may have helped clients avoid paying taxes, Bafin and the bank said Thursday.

Market watchdog Bafin probing UBS unit
Photo: DPA

“We are checking whether directives against money laundering are respected by UBS,” a Bafin spokesman told news agency AFP.

UBS confirmed in a statement that its German subsidiary was the target of a probe by the German watchdog, with which it was working in “close cooperation.”

A UBS spokeswoman contacted by the German magazine Der Spiegel said Bafin had launched its probe following one by prosecutors in Frankfurt to determine if the Swiss bank systematically helped clients avoid taxes. UBS is carrying out an investigation of its own, the spokeswoman said.

Bafin cannot sanction banks directly if it uncovers evidence of wrong-doing, but can order that remedial measures be taken.

The affair was revealed when a UBS customer told Frankfurt prosecutors the bank had helped him set up a false address in Zurich to defraud the German tax system.

In March, prosecutors in Düsseldorf, western Germany, opened a separate investigation of some 1,100 Credit Suisse clients suspected of tax fraud, a probe that included bank workers.

German tax authorities can expect to rake in more than €1 billion ($1.35 billion) from tax dodgers after buying a CD containing their names, a German tax union said Saturday.

Relations between Germany and Switzerland have been strained by alleged tax fraud for several years, and they are currently negotiating terms of a treaty to avoid double imposition.

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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.