Posted on Sep 27, 2021, 2:59 PM
“I regret having to extend the deliberations,” President François Réygrobellet immediately announced. No need for UBS and for the six former executives of the bank also prosecuted to prolong the suspense. As we announced to you on Friday, the Paris Court of Appeal has decided to postpone its decision on the Swiss wealth management giant to December 13, sued for aggravated money laundering of tax fraud and illegal bank canvassing in France between 2004 and 2012. .
In February 2019, the bank was fined 3.7 billion euros, the heaviest sanction ever pronounced in France for a case of tax evasion. The largest wealth manager in the world was also ordered to pay 800 million euros in damages to the French state. The Swiss bank, which has always claimed not to have broken the law, appealed and, after a second trial in March, the decision was expected on Monday.
However, the latter could not be “finalized” because “one of the magistrates of the chamber in charge of the report was forced to stop for serious health reasons”, regretted François Reygrobellet, in a small room. ‘hearing completely filled by some defendants and many lawyers.
“Hunt” wealthy clients
UBS is suspected of having illegally sent its salespeople to France between 2004 and 2012 to “hunt” wealthy clients from its subsidiary, during receptions, sports tournaments or concerts, in order to convince them to open undeclared accounts in Switzerland. UBS France appeared for complicity, alongside six former executives.
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”. In short: 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.
But 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.
“At least” 2 billion
“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”. Claiming a fine of “at least” two billion euros, well below the penalty of first instance.
The prosecution also requested confirmation of the fine of 15 million euros for UBS France, as well as suspended prison sentences and fines for the six former officials, one of whom had been acquitted by the court. The French State, civil party, had requested one billion euros in damages.
The defense of the bank had pleaded the release, affirming that UBS had “scrupulously respected the provisions of the national and European law” in force at the time of the facts and criticizing a file without “the beginning of a proof”.