UBS goes on trial in France over alleged tax fraud

UBS’s trial in France follows a similar judicial process in the US where the bank accepted in 2009 to pay $780 million in a settlement. (AFP)
Updated 08 October 2018

UBS goes on trial in France over alleged tax fraud

  • The largest Swiss bank risks fines of up to €5 billion
  • The bank intends to stand its ground in court

PARIS: Swiss bank UBS Group , its French unit and six top executives go on trial on Monday after a long-running investigation into allegations they helped wealthy clients avoid taxes in France.
After years of investigation and aborted settlement negotiations, UBS faces charges of aggravated tax fraud and money laundering as well as illegally soliciting clients in France.
The largest Swiss bank risks fines of up to €5 billion ($5.76 billion).
The bank intends to stand its ground in court. “After more than six years of legal proceedings, we will finally have the opportunity to respond to the often-unfounded allegations,” it said on Friday.
Banks became more rigorous after the 2008 financial crisis, a series of financial scandals at some of the world’s biggest banks and the imposition of tighter regulations, analysts say.
UBS’s trial in France follows a similar judicial process in the United States where the bank accepted in 2009 to pay $780 million in a settlement. In Germany, UBS agreed to a 300 million euro fine in 2014.
During the French investigation, UBS turned down a settlement offer of €1.1 billion made by the authorities. The amount corresponded to what the Swiss bank had already paid as a court bond, according to judicial sources.
Most of the trial’s first week will be spent on dealing with technicalities likely to be brought up by the defendants’ lawyers.
The investigation into UBS in the US began after UBS employee Bradley Birkenfeld revealed a scheme to funnel wealthy customers’ cash from the United States to Switzerland bypassing the US taxman.
Birkenfeld spoke separately to French investigators. Even though he is not due to testify in court in Paris he will attend the hearings.
The whistleblower told Reuters that he hoped for a stiff penalty for the Swiss bank. “If they set an example with UBS, most other banks will be scared,” he said.
For money laundering, French criminal law lets judges enforce fines as high as half of the amount laundered. In the French case, prosecutors estimate that up to €10.6 billion was denied to the taxman.


Iran: Oil product exports hit record high despite US sanctions

Updated 22 January 2021

Iran: Oil product exports hit record high despite US sanctions

  • ‘The enemy and Trump wanted us to perish and die, our exports to reach zero’
  • ‘We set the highest record of exports in the history of the oil industry during the embargo period’

DUBAI: Iran has achieved record high exports of petroleum products despite US sanctions, Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said in televised remarks on Friday.
Zanganeh said former US President Donald Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, had “joined the dustbin of history, but we are alive and working with more hope to build the country.”
“The enemy and Trump wanted us to perish and die, our exports to reach zero,” he said.
“We set the highest record of exports in the history of the oil industry during the embargo period.”
Trump abandoned the Iran nuclear deal in 2018 and imposed sanctions on the Iranian energy and banking sector.
It is estimated that Iran exports less than 300,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd), compared with a peak of 2.8 million bpd in 2018.
US President Joe Biden has said that if Iran resumed strict compliance with the nuclear agreement — under which it restrained its nuclear program in return for relief from economic sanctions — the United States would too.
However, two of Biden’s top national security nominees said on Tuesday that the United States was a long way from making a decision to rejoin the deal.
Iran has significantly increased exports of petroleum products in recent years although oil products, like crude, fall under US sanctions.
Unlike crude oil, where the ultimate buyer is a refinery, other products can find their way to potentially thousands of small-scale industrial or residential buyers, making them difficult to trace.