ZURICH (Reuters) - The German chairman of Swiss bank UBS UBSN.VX said he has no evidence bank data on alleged German tax evaders purchased by the German state of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW) was leaked from his bank.
“Up to now, we have not found any evidence,” the former Bundesbank chief said in an interview with Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung published on Sunday.
NRW prosecutors said last week they were pursuing tax evaders who secretly stashed cash in Switzerland, after obtaining new bank data from a presumed whistleblower.
Their action has strained relations between Germany and Switzerland, which has criticized previous purchases of leaked bank data by officials in the same state.
Partly to prevent such purchases, Berne struck a deal with Berlin in April to levy taxes on German assets in Swiss accounts, but the agreement could easily unravel.
The Social Democrats (SPD), Germany’s largest opposition party, of which NRW’s finance minister Norbert Walter-Borjans is a member, has promised to veto the deal in its current form, while a spokesman for the Swiss government has said it will not be renegotiated.
Weber said the bank would have to live with the fact that data was being leaked. “This is not the first time data theft has happened in Switzerland and it will not be the last time,” he said.
UBS did not help wealthy German clients dodge taxes, he added.
The leader of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel, last Sunday spoke about “organized crime in Swiss banks” helping Germans avoid taxation.
Weber said no lawsuits from Germany had been filed against UBS but it would cooperate with German authorities if that happened. “We have no reason to make any provisions,” he added.
Weber said he expected the German government to prevent future purchases of bank data from Switzerland once the Swiss-German tax deal was signed.
Consolidation in the Swiss banking industry was still ongoing and would likely result in further job cuts, Weber told the newspaper.
He declined to comment on the likelihood of any lay-offs at UBS. “I won’t speculate. If the market situation does not improve, however, we have to take a close look,” he said, adding the bank was still resting on two healthy pillars, asset management and investment banking.
Weber said he expected UBS would be able to bolster its capital faster than planned and the bank would still be robust in case of a further escalation in the eurozone crisis.
The bank would continue to shrink its investment banking and reduce risks and that dividends would for the time being remain “modest”, he added.
Reporting by Andrew Thompson; Editing by Andrew Heavens