Former UBS Employee On Trial For Taking Client Data

Tom Burroughes Group Editor 8 January 2019

Former UBS Employee On Trial For Taking Client Data

A former employee is charged with commercial espionage, violating Swiss bank secrecy, money laundering and illegal possession of munitions. He denies the charges.

(Update: Bloomberg reported yesterday that the person failed to show up in court for a second day, prompting the court to delay the trial.)

The Swiss banking industry’s history of former employees taking data from bank clients and selling it continually raises the question of whether such people are legitimate whistleblowers, thieves, or people bearing a grudge. A new case kicked off in Switzerland on Monday.

A former UBS employee reported by Bloomberg as being identified as “Rene S”, is charged with commercial espionage, violating Swiss bank secrecy, money laundering and illegal possession of munitions. The newswire cited an indictment drawn up by Swiss federal prosecutors.

The Zurich-listed bank declined to comment to WealthBriefing when asked about the matter.

The newswire said that the man, a native of Basel, is suspected of stealing data over a few days in 2010 on more than 200 clients, including more than 30 family foundations. The information was sold to the German government and the man was allegedly paid €1.15 million ($1.3 million).

A number of other former bank employees have been charged with similar matters. As the newswire noted, Sina Lapour, formerly of Credit Suisse, was convicted for copying data on more than 2,000 clients in 2007. Hervé Falciani, a French national, was sentenced in Switzerland to five years in jail in 2015 for industrial espionage over the leaking of secret bank data from HSBC in Switzerland. At the time it was considered unlikely that he would actually serve out the sentence. He originally fled to France from Geneva in 2009. He had worked in the private banking arm’s IT department.

Switzerland’s famous bank secrecy laws, which in modern form date back to 1934, have eroded internationally as a result of automatic exchange of information agreements signed by the Swiss government and international counterparts. The agreements to swap data are collectively known as the Common Reporting Standard.

A vexed issue for lawmakers and bankers is setting a boundary between protecting legitimate privacy from snoopers and thieves, and secrecy that might be misused by criminals and hostile regimes.

Bloomberg’s report on the “Rene S” case said that it was during his more than six years as an employee in UBS’s trust and foundations department in Basel that he gleaned the information that he is accused of selling. The information he passed on led German authorities to search the homes of at least 233 UBS customers in Germany.

Moritz Gall, a lawyer for the accused man, is quoted saying his client denies the charges against him.

The report added that a verdict on the case is scheduled for 21 January.

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