Credit Suisse limits staff travel to Germany in detention fears

22 March 2010

Credit Suisse has restricted its wealth managers from travelling to Germany over fears they could be detained by authorities in the country.

Authorities in Dusseldorf are currently investigating around 1,100 cases of tax evasion by German citizens with Credit Suisse bank accounts.

Credit Suisse bankers who are believed to have helped their German clients hide assets and therefore avoid paying the correct amount of tax are also being targeted in the investigation.

Andres Luther, a Credit Suisse official, told the Financial Times that the bank has urged staff not to get involved in such activities but was taking the step on curtailing travel to Germany as a precautionary measure.

"We have made it very clear to relationship managers they must never assist clients evading tax," he said.

"For some years, we have had very clear rules and regulations on travel. In the current environment, we have become very restrictive regarding travel to Germany."

It was added that the German authorities had not yet been in direct contact with Credit Suisse and the bank believed its behaviour fully complies with regulations overseeing the Swiss financial sector.

One controversial aspect of the case is that the investigation is based on stolen data sold on to Germany.

Last month, German chancellor Angela Merkel increased tensions between the two nations by stating that her government was willing to pay for stolen data "if it is relevant".

While Switzerland believes it is important to protect the privacy of its banking clients, Germany has estimated that it has lost as much as $278 million in tax revenue due to its citizens hiding their assets across the border, reported Bloomberg.

Swiss finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said that Germany will be offered no legal help by Switzerland in cases that are based on stolen client data.

By Gary Cooper

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