BERLIN May 4 A German state minister expressed
alarm on Thursday at reports Switzerland had a spy in the
regional finance ministry to find out how it obtained details of
secret Swiss bank accounts, saying it threatened to compound a
scandal that broke last week.
The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper and broadcasters NDR and
WDR reported that the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FSI)
had planted a mole in the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) finance
ministry to get details of German tax investigators.
Last Friday, German police arrested a 54-year old man
suspected of trying to find out how German states had obtained
CDs with details of secret Swiss bank accounts set up by Germans
to evade tax.
"If the Swiss spy did not just collect data himself, but
also placed informants in our financial administration, the
scandal takes on a new dimension," said Norbert Walter-Borjans,
NRW finance minister.
"You could hardly imagine a spy thriller like this taking
place not on the big screen but on our doorstep," he said,
adding the case showed how strongly protected is the Swiss
system that allows tax evasion.
The case could be embarrassing for Switzerland which has
increased transparency in its financial system in the last few
years to stop international tax dodgers abusing its secrecy
"We are giving all support to the investigating authorities
to unmask the spies and we will not be intimidated in our
efforts towards tax justice," said the minister.
NRW has for years irritated Switzerland by buying data as
part of a crack down on tax evasion by Germans stashing away
cash in secret accounts.
The state has bought 11 CDS of data since 2010 and paid 17.9
million euros ($19.59 million) to informants. It has recovered
nearly 7 billion euros in tax revenue which would have been
The FIS declined to comment on the case but earlier this
week, its defence minister, who oversees the agency, said it
must protect its methods and sources.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel spoke to his Swiss
counterpart on Wednesday about the case, the German foreign
ministry said, declining to give further details.
($1 = 0.9139 euros)
(Reporting by Matthias Inverardi and Andrea Shalal and Oliver
Hirt; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Catherine Evans)