Swiss tax spy receives suspended fine for economic espionage

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) imposed a two-year suspended fine of 18,000 Swiss francs on Daniel M., as well as 45,000 Swiss francs in federal court costs in an indictment dated 1 November. © Keystone / Anthony Anex

A Swiss man who was previously convicted of spying on a German tax authority in 2017 received a suspended fine in Switzerland for attempted economic espionage, Swiss media reported.

This content was published on December 17, 2021 – 13:28

Keystone-SDA / RTS / sb

The Swiss Attorney General’s Office (OAG) imposed a two-year suspended fine of CHF 18,000 on Daniel M. as well as CHF 45,000 in federal court costs in an indictment dated November 1. The news was initially revealed to the Swiss public. RTS radioExternal link Thursday and later confirmed by Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA.

Since 2014, the federal prosecutor’s office has been investigating the 58-year-old private detective, a former spy for the Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) from 2011-2015, in a case of economic espionage.

Between the summer of 2014 and February 2015, at the request of a German journalist, Daniel M. collected the banking data of the former director of the German Federal Intelligence Service, August Hanning, on alleged accounts in Switzerland, specifies the Swiss penal ordinance.

The Swiss had hired and paid a security specialist to find information on Hanning’s banking activities. He thought he had succeeded. But his source gave him three documents with information that turned out to be false.

Unsuspecting Daniel M. forwarded the documents to the German journalist, who paid him € 150,000 (CHF 157,000). The money actually came from a fourth protagonist in this case, a former German private detective, who then indirectly informed Swiss justice.

For the Swiss Attorney General’s office, it was an attempt at economic espionage, whether or not it was fake. The prosecution could not determine whether Daniel M. knew whether the information he had provided would end up in the hands of the journalist or that of a foreign official service or a private company.

Charges against the other defendants in this case – the journalist, the security expert and the German detective – have been dismissed.

Former high profile case

Daniel M. had previously been involved in high-profile espionage activity linked to so-called tax CDs containing data on suspected tax evaders with money in Swiss banks.

He was arrested in Germany in April 2017 before being sentenced by a Frankfurt court to 22 months suspended prison sentence and a € 40,000 fine (CHF 46,600).

He was accused of having placed a mole within the tax administration of North Rhine-Westphalia to locate for the FIS the inspectors working on cases of German tax evasion in Switzerland.

He revealed the details of his mission but denied having managed to plant a “fly on the wall”.

The case came at a time of heightened tensions between Germany and Switzerland over tax evasion. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, German authorities – notably the state of North Rhine-Westphalia – spent millions of euros to buy stolen data from Swiss banks which revealed the names of thousands of customers.

The Daniel M. case sparked outrage in Germany, but Swiss authorities defended their efforts to combat the theft of trade secrets.

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