Posted on Sep 24, 2021 at 4:00 PMUpdated Sep 24, 2021, 4:47 PM
It was this Monday, in a courthouse vibrant with the hearing of the 2015 attacks, that UBS had to be fixed on its fate. But, according to our information, a postponement should be announced at the opening of the hearing during which the Paris Court of Appeal was to read its decision. And the giant Swiss banker will probably have to wait until the end of the year to know his sentence.
In 2019, the Swiss bank was found guilty of laundering, tax evasion and illicit canvassing, and sentenced to the biggest sanction ever pronounced by the French justice: 4.5 billion euros, including 3.7 billion in fines. and 800,000 euros owed to the French State as damages.
Stunned by this record fine, the Swiss bank had tried to change its strategy on appeal and tried to appear less arrogant in front of the tight questions of the court chaired by François Reygrobellet. “A bygone era,” pleaded Hervé Temime, one of the bank’s lawyers for whom this case “is not a case of tax fraud laundering, but a case of illicit canvassing that has gone wrong.”
Between 2004 and 2012, UBS would have set up in France a vast system of canvassing wealthy clients to open accounts in Switzerland, without the knowledge of the tax authorities.
But it is in the legal field that the part is the most serious. At first instance, the court had stigmatized “a fault of exceptional gravity”. The reasoning adopted by the judges was a small legal revolution: “the fraud finds its source in an organization structured vertically, systematic and old”. Clearly: no need to look for the details of the fraud – especially in terms of proof – since the system put in place by the legal person could only lead to it.
New calculation of the fine
“We do not penally condemn a system”, had hammered Hervé Temime in his plea. Recalling that a legal person is “the addition of natural persons who work for it”.
Since the bank’s conviction at first instance, a series of judgments issued by the Court of Cassation have changed the basis for calculating the fine due in the event of laundering of tax fraud. The base is no longer the amount of assets evaded, but the amount of unpaid taxes on these sums.
“We take note of this new case law”, had recognized Advocate General Serge Roque, while regretting “a narrow and unsuitable conception of the fine contrary to the objectives of combating money laundering and tax fraud”.
Therefore, Bercy had operated its calculator and calculated at 895 million euros, according to the state lawyer, the amount of rights evaded by people having “sobered” their defrauded assets.
Then, using the method of calculating the PNF, the public prosecutor’s office quantified the fine requested from UBS AG at 2 billion euros. For his part, Xavier Normand-Bodard, the State lawyer, civil party in this trial, had requested in addition 1 billion in damages.
It is thus 3 billion that UBS AG would have to pay if the court were to follow these requisitions, instead of the 4.5 billion of the judgment of first instance.