Swiss bank UBS rejects allegations in French book

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By FRANK JORDANS, Associated Press

GENEVA (AP) — Swiss bank UBS AG on Tuesday rejected allegations in a recently published book that it had systematically helped rich customers in France avoid paying taxes, saying the claims were based on testimony from disgruntled former employees.

The bank said the allegations in the book "Ces 600 milliards qui manquent a la France" — or "The 600 billion missing from France" — were "false and ungrounded."

"UBS strongly rejects these false allegations and will defend itself against them vigorously using the appropriate legal means," it said in a statement.

The book's author, French journalist Antoine Peillon, claims the Zurich-based bank schooled its client advisers in how to target businesspeople and celebrities, and avoid being caught by French authorities.

"The allegations stem from several former employees in France," the bank said. It added that the former employees had brought claims against UBS's French subsidiary.

"The court has neither responded to these claims nor confirmed them," UBS said. "UBS (France) SA has conducted an internal investigation, in which it found no evidence that would support the allegations."

Two years ago UBS paid $780 million to U.S. authorities as part of deal to end a tax evasion probe in which it stood accused of helping Americans hide billions of dollars in secret accounts. The case helped burst a hole in Switzerland's staunch tradition of banking secrecy and exposed the lengths to which bankers were willing to go to satisfy the super rich.

Former UBS employee Bradley Birkenfeld told U.S. authorities that bankers would enter the United States claiming they were traveling on pleasure rather than advising clients on wealth concealment tactics. Birkenfeld said he once bought diamonds using a U.S. client's money and smuggled them to America in a tube of toothpaste.

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