Switzerland news: Julius Bär bank under investigation for money-laundering in carbon credit VAT fraud case

German-language media report that private bank Julius Bär is under investigation by French authorities for money-laundering. [Update 1/10/14: Reuters covers story in English here]

The Berner Zeitung’s headline is “Paris investigating Julius Bär in Fraud of the Century”.

According to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Julius Bär has been part of inquiries into a large-scale fraud case involving carbon emissions credits since June. The bank is suspected of accepting proceeds from the scheme in a Julius Bär account in Switzerland, without carrying out the necessary checks.

The Handelzeitung adds that the alleged fraud involved Value Added Tax (VAT) in the market for carbon emission rights: “In the early years of EU emissions trading there was large-scale fraud. Emissions rights were sold across national borders within the EU several times, and  the VAT illegally claimed from tax authorities”.

Liechtenstein’s Vaterland.li notes that in 2012 a French court estimated the fraud to have cost the taxpayer 1.6 billion euros in France alone. Europol estimates total losses across Europe at five billion euros.

The bank told AFP that it is “cooperating with French authorities to clarify the situation and protect its interests.”

The story (published Sep 27th) does not seem to have been picked up by English-language media yet.

In other Switzerland news, Swissinfo reports that a group has “handed in signatures to force a nationwide vote on maintaining banking secrecy for domestic private bank clients”.

The initiative is called “Yes to the protection of the private sphere” and includes “members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party, centre-right Radical Party and Christian Democratic Party – as well as the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Homeowners’ Association”.

According to Swissinfo, the Swiss bankers Association has said that it “does not support the initiative”. In any case, if the initiative is found to have reached the necessary 100.000 valid signatures, a nationwide vote will be held on the proposal. For the full story please see here.

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