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Rights court rejects US client’s case against UBS

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Strasbourg: Europe’s rights court dismissed a complaint today by an American client of Swiss banking giant UBS who had contested the legality of giving his bank account details to US authorities probing possible tax evasion.

The judges ruled that implementing a mutual assistance agreement in tax matters between Switzerland and the United States, reached in 2010, did not violate the European convention on human rights, the court said in a statement.

The case concerned a dual US and Saudi national living in Miami whose Swiss bank account details were handed over to US tax authorities as part of its probe of UBS.

In 2008 the US Internal Revenue Service had discovered that the bank UBS had allowed US taxpayers to conceal their assets and income. The IRS sought the identities and data of some 52,000 US customers.

After the Swiss federal tax authority ordered UBS to give the US authorities the information, the unnamed US account holder took legal action first in Switzerland, and failing there brought the case to the European Court of Human Rights.

“The Court accepted that Switzerland had had a major interest in acceding to the US request for administrative cooperation in order to enable the US authorities to identify any assets which might have been concealed in Switzerland,” the statement said.

It also noted that only the bank account details had been disclosed to determine whether the US tax obligations had been honoured.

“No private details or data, closely linked to his identity, which would have deserved enhanced protection, has been transmitted,” the court said.

It noted that UBS had reached an agreement with the US Justice Department to suspend any possible criminal proceedings in return for a payment of USD 780 million.