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Banking

UBS Belgium CEO Bruehwiler charged in tax fraud case

Swiss bank UBS is once again being investigated for alledgedly aiding clients to hide money from tax authorities. This time storm clouds are gathering over the bank in Belgium.

The head of Swiss bank UBS in Belgium has been charged on allegations of tax fraud involving billions of euros. Marcel Bruehwiler, CEO of UBS Belgium, was released after questioning in Brussels on Thursday.

Bruehwiler was detained after police had searched Bruehwiler's home and those of several clients. He's charged with money laundering, membership in a criminal organization, and fraud. He is suspected of luring wealthy clients in Belgium with the prospect of tax-free accounts at UBS offices in Switzerland. The prosecutor's office estimates that the case involves several billion euros, and said the investigation was ongoing.

The manager denies the allegations. UBS issued a statement earlier saying it does not tolerate activities aimed at tax evasion. The allegations are in connection with activities which started ten years ago.

Tipped-off

Investigators have launched the probe after being tipped off by former UBS employees. It comes as UBS offices are under investigation in France and Germany for allegedly helping clients to transfer money to bank accounts in Switzerland to save taxes.

Banks and the business of tax havens

IIn 2009, UBS paid $780 million in fines in a wide-reaching tax evasion probe in the United States. UBS also turned over the names of thousands of US clients to American authorities, which put an end to the bank secrecy laws which helped make Swiss bank accounts famous and Switzerland a top destination for foreign cash.

It also drew attention to the billions and billions of dollars in potential tax income that was evading highly indebted governments around the world.

kpc/uhe (AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg)

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