A Paris court has opened a judicial investigation into the activities of UBS in France. The Swiss bank is suspected of helping French clients evade taxes.
Specifically, UBS is suspected of having had an organised, commercial offer for clients which proposed ways of hiding money from French tax authorities.
The judicial investigation, which will be led by a Paris magistrate, follows a preliminary inquiry by police which was opened in March last year and which was meant to determine if serious questions of illegality existed.
It also follows the receipt by the court last month of a report detailing investigations by the regulator into allegations by former managers that UBS France had kept two sets of books to hide undeclared Swiss accounts from the taxman.
The significance of this new investigation is that a magistrate has broader powers than police to force the disclosure of information relevant to the case. The magistrate could target both individuals and UBS itself if he or she determines that illegal actions resulted from a conscious and deliberate policy.
UBS France has denied that the bank implemented or participated in any system designed to help clients evade taxes.