ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss court has upheld the 2019 conviction of a former UBS banker for selling information about wealthy German tax evaders to German authorities.
The ex-banker - a Swiss dubbed Rene S. under restrictions on identifying criminal defendants - was sentenced to 40 months in prison for economic espionage and money laundering.
In a verdict released on Friday, the Federal Criminal Court upheld the sentence but reduced an accompanying fine and dismissed a weapons charge.
Rene S. did not attend the court proceedings and is believed to be living in Germany.
The case was part of a decade-old dispute between Germany and Switzerland over untaxed assets, a fight fading now that both countries and others automatically exchange data about residents' accounts.
Switzerland, whose banks have paid other countries billions to settle charges they helped foreigners hide wealth, has aggressively prosecuted whistleblowers who leak banking data.
Prosecutors said that between 2005 and 2012, Rene S. collected data about Germans with UBS accounts and sold the information for 1.15 million euros ($1.4 million) to tax authorities in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Rene S.'s lawyer asked the court to dismiss all the charges.
A decade ago, Germans were believed to be hiding about 150 billion Swiss francs ($170 billion) in secret accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
But thousands began declaring their assets after North Rhine-Westphalia started buying covertly collected data that helped it recover nearly 7 billion euros in tax revenue.
UBS paid around $300 million in 2014 to settle claims it helped wealthy Germans dodge taxes.
The dispute included several twists.
Swiss prosecutors brought criminal charges in 2012 against three German tax collectors accused of buying account information from informants.
In 2017, Germany arrested a Swiss man accused of spying on North Rhine-Westphalia's tax authority. He got a suspended term.
($1 = 0.8169 euros)
($1 = 0.8853 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Karishma Singh)