Swiss Spy Suspected of Monitoring German Tax Investigators
It’s said that all countries spy on each other, but it’s quite embarrassing when they get caught doing so. The Swiss government has apparently been caught spying on the Germans, who were attempting to identify their own tax cheats using Swiss bank accounts to hide their money.
Stealthy Swiss Banking
In May of 2015, the European Union signed an agreement with Switzerland regarding the exchange of banking data. This exchange would effectively put an end to the “secret Swiss bank accounts” you often hear about in the news and movies. Since then people are scrambling to hide their money and governments are making every effort to find out who is illegally doing so.
The Swiss ambassador in Berlin, Christine Schraner Burgener, has been asked by the German foreign ministry for an explanation. She may need some time to come up with an acceptable story. The Swiss defense minister, Guy Parmelin, refused to answer any questions about it at a recent press conference, citing that he would not comment on an ongoing investigation.
These spying allegations could prove to be quite embarrassing, as Switzerland has been publicly making efforts to increase the transparency of its banking system to stop people who abuse privacy laws.
German Government Galled
The German government was quite angry that Switzerland planted a spy in the finance ministry of North Rhein-Westphali to find out how German officials were getting information about German citizens evading taxes by using Swiss bank accounts. On April 28, 2017, German police arrested a Swiss national identified as Daniel M., a man in his fifties who was a former police officer. He had apparently been a double agent spy since 2012.
According to German media outlets, the goal of his spy mission was to find and identify the German tax investigators who were purchasing stolen data that identified Germans who were illegally hiding money in Swiss bank accounts. This information would help Swiss authorities file charges against Germany for breaking Swiss banking laws, as well as charge the Germans with spying.
A History of Espionage
Obtaining information from each other is common, but the Germans demand to know why an informant was placed in their financial ministry and for what purposes. They cite this as further evidence for why they need to go after tax evaders using Swiss bank accounts.
For over ten years, Germany has been purchasing compact discs and USB drives containing stolen information. They paid $20 million to informants and have recovered the equivalent of almost $8 billion in tax revenue that was being hidden from them. They also identified the rich and famous Germans who were illegally hiding money in Swiss accounts.
These discoveries have resulted in public embarrassment, public apologies and fines for those identified. The Swiss were angered by the breach of their secrecy and were apparently trying to put an end to this as it was an embarrassment for their country as well.
A Relationship in Jeopardy
The scandal has caused a rift in the friendship between the two countries whose relationship has historically been good. The two governments have over 200 diplomatic agreements between them, and they meet regularly to ensure the strength of their relationship. Many Swiss speak German as their native language, and they share similar cultures.
The Swiss authorities have yet to comment directly, but they contend they were simply investigating the illegal procurement of protected information and protecting their own banking laws — but they aren’t saying much else.
Markus Seiler of the Swiss intelligence agency, known as FIS, has strong words for the incident, suggesting that when people in Switzerland illegally steal state or business secrets, it’s espionage. He went on to say the FIS is active in many investigations at home and abroad. When asked if Germany was one of those countries he said, “I say simply nothing.”
So, the Swiss can simply say nothing while the ambassador to Germany keeps blocking her calls and sweating it out while she thinks up a good story. It seems abundantly clear that both countries are just trying to protect their money.
The Swiss want foreign nations and rich individuals to be comfortable depositing/hiding their money in Swiss bank accounts because that is one of the things they are well known for. It is big business in Switzerland.
Germany and other countries want their citizens to pay their taxes. With billions of dollars in lost tax revenue hiding in Swiss accounts, it should be expected that countries will go after it in any way they can, legally or illegally.
It’s up to the Swiss to adequately explain their actions.