* Credit Suisse clients raided in shift from banks,
* Swiss bank believes exempt following German deal last
* UBS raided in Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg
By Katharina Bart and Arno Schuetze
ZURICH/FRANKFURT, July 11 German tax authorities
have raided Credit Suisse clients and French officials
searched the homes of UBS employees, deepening the
crackdown on foreigners hiding money in Swiss offshore accounts
to dodge taxes.
Switzerland's strict banking secrecy rules, which have
helped build a $2 trillion offshore financial sector, have
infuriated cash-strapped governments as they try to crack down
on tax evasion by wealthy citizens.
Roughly 5,000 German clients of Credit Suisse are being
probed on suspicion of tax evasion and some had their homes
searched, a bank source said on Wednesday, as European tax
officials broaden their investigation to include clients as well
Meanwhile, the offices of UBS in Lyon, Bordeaux
and Strasbourg were raided on Tuesday on suspicion of
money-laundering and aiding tax evasion, according to a bank
The private homes of several high-ranking UBS employees in
Strasbourg were also searched, the source said.
It was not immediately clear whether the raids in Germany
and France were coordinated or in any way connected.
A spokesman for UBS said the bank was cooperating with
authorities. The French prosecutor's office declined to comment
because the investigation is ongoing.
In Germany, tax authorities in Bochum and Duesseldorf are
probing Credit Suisse clients over Bermuda-based life insurance
products used by clients to avoid tax, the bank source said. Tax
officials in both towns declined to comment.
In the product description, the bank states that clients are
responsible for their tax affairs and that the bank can claim
reimbursement from clients if taxes or fees are levied against
Credit Suisse struck a deal with Germany last September,
which saw the bank pay 150 million euros ($183.83 million) to
German tax authorities in a bid to end an investigation over
allegations the bank and its employees helped Germans dodge
Germany and France, along with Britain, represent the
largest markets in Europe for Swiss private banks.
The German investigation also comes against the backdrop of
a deal struck with Switzerland to levy taxes on German funds
stashed in Swiss bank accounts that is due to come into effect
next year, a l though German lawmakers still have to approve it.
UBS was forced in 2009 to pay a fine and release the names
of 4,500 clients to U.S. officials to end a damaging tax probe.
U.S. authorities are still investigating Swiss banks including
Credit Suisse and Julius Baer over tax offences.
Switzerland is trying to get the U.S. investigations dropped
in exchange for the payment of fines and the transfer of names
of thousands more U.S. bank clients.