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German authorities are investigating clients of Credit Suisse over an alleged tax evasion scheme in the latest twist of a long-running tax probe that strained relations between Bern and Berlin.
Officials are examining whether thousands of German customers who purchased Bermuda-based life insurance products from the Swiss bank should have paid tax, Handelsblatt, reported on Wednesday. The newspaper said the authorities had raided several German homes in connection with the probe.
The finance ministry of North Rhein-Westphalia did not immediately return calls but declined to comment when contacted by news agencies. However, a banking source confirmed to the Financial Times that a tax investigation was under way.
Germany and Switzerland last year signed a prospective tax treaty designed to clamp down on tax evasion by German residents with secret Swiss bank accounts.
The agreement followed an acrimonious dispute between the two governments that came to ahead when the German tax authorities in 2010 said they had obtained CDs from whistleblowers containing details of secret bank accounts in Switzerland.
The dispute reignited again earlier this year when Switzerland issued arrest warrants against three tax officials from North Rhine-Westphalia linked to the purchase of confidential customer information.
The current German investigation concerns only Credit Suisse’s customers, not the bank or its employees.
Credit Suisse reached an out-of-court settlement last year with North Rhine-Westphalia that required it to make a €150m payment to end an investigation into claims it helped customers evade tax.
Credit Suisse said the bank stopped selling the Bermuda life insurance products in Germany in 2009. The bank has advised customers to hire a tax expert to get their affairs in order.