UPDATE 1-French court rejects constitutional challenge by UBS in tax case

(Adds UBS lawyer reaction)

PARIS, June 28 (Reuters) - A French court on Monday rejected a challenge filed by Swiss bank UBS linked to constitutional aspects of its French tax case, confirming that judges would rule on the lender’s appeal against a 4.5 billion euro ($5.36 billion) fine on Sept. 27.

UBS is looking to overturn a 2019 French court ruling in which it was found guilty of soliciting clients illegally at sporting events and parties in France, and of laundering the proceeds of tax evasion.

“We acknowledge this decision. We are awaiting the Sept. 27 ruling with a serene mind,” UBS lawyer Herve Temime told journalists.

UBS was hit in 2019 with a record 4.5 billion euros in penalties, including a 3.7 billion euro fine and 800 million euros in civil damages.

With its motion on the constitutional aspects of the case, the bank was seeking to argue that it should never have been charged with laundering of tax fraud, which carries higher sanctions than aiding and abetting tax fraud.

In the fresh appeals trial, prosecutors are still seeking a fine of at least 2 billion euros, with lawyers for the French state saying they wanted 1 billion euros in damages and interest payments.

Lawyers for UBS argued in the appeals trial three months ago that despite whistleblowers coming forward, investigators had never found clear evidence of systematic attempts to canvass French customers by UBS commercial specialists, including at client events such as cocktail parties and hunts.

$1 = 0.8399 euros $1 = 0.8401 euros Reporting by Matthieu Protard, Editing by Dominique Vidalon, Sarah White and Louise Heavens