26 Jul 2019
At 9:15 Friday morning high on a hill overlooking Lake Geneva, five Swiss Supreme Court judges will debate whether UBS Group AG must hand over data on its French clients to Paris tax authorities as part of a crackdown on suspected tax evasion.
The case, dating back to 2012, isn’t new. The hearing, however, will be the first chance the public will get to hear arguments in a case of huge importance for UBS and other Swiss banks. It will also be a rare event by local legal standards.
About 99% of the Lausanne-based Swiss Supreme Court’s cases are held behind closed doors. For a hearing to be open to the public, one of the five judges must request it, or there must be at least one dissenting opinion from the proposed verdict or methodology underlying the decision.
The Swiss Supreme Court will decide whether the bank must give French authorities the account details of thousands of French citizens suspected of hiding funds in Switzerland. That data could be used by prosecutors in Paris against UBS as it appeals the $5 billion penalty levied in February after the lender was found guilty of helping clients evade taxes.
Hans-Georg Seiler, the lead judge in this case, will begin by outlining the argument behind his proposed verdict before the other four judges take turns either endorsing or refuting that line of reasoning. It’s a debate that could take two hours, or double that. When the debate has closed, there is a show of hands before Seiler announces the verdict.
By Hugo Miller, Bloomberg, 26 July 2019
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