German Court Rejects Request to Release Swiss Suspected Spy — [UPDATE-3]

“When someone in Switzerland uses illegal methods in Switzerland to steal state or business secrets, that is espionage, and we have the task to fight that.”

Swiss Federal Intelligence Service Director Markus Seiler

“The scandal reaches new proportions when spies sign up informers in the finance administration, in order to spy on successful NRW [North Rhine-Westphalia ] tax investigators and play into the hands of people who make billions in profit at the expense of society. It’s hard to believe that such a spy thriller took place not on the screen but on our own doorstep.”

NRW Finance Minister Norbert Walter-Borjans

Daniel M

Daniel M.

On June 27 2017, a German court rejected a request to release Daniel M. — a Swiss man being held on suspicion of spying. The alleged Swiss spy was arrested in a Frankfurt hotel on May 5 2017 .

On Thursday November 9 2017,  Daniel M. was found guilty of spying on German tax authorities at a hearing in Frankfurt. The defendant was handed a suspended sentence of 22 months.

On October 2 2018, the Swiss Federal Council said that the decision to send Daniel M. to snoop on tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia was taken in a different political context, and its outcome was impossible to predict. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY

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UPDATE (October 4 2018) — In its reaction to a highly critical report by the Parliamentary Control Committee published in March, the Federal Council said that the decision to send Daniel M. to snoop on tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia was taken in a different political context, and its outcome was impossible to predict.

Among other criticisms, the committee had said that the information gathered by the spy was of little value; however, the government said on Tuesday, this judgement is made in hindsight.

At the time of dispatching Daniel M – who worked on the case for the Federal Intelligence Servicesexternal link (FIS) from 2011 to 2015 – it was impossible to know if he would find anything of value, it added, noting that political tensions with Germany around banking secrecy were also more pronounced at the time. (…)

Despite justifying the launch of the mission, however, the government said it agreed with – and had already implemented – most of the committee’s recommendations: notably when it comes to screening future sources/spies, as well as ensuring that missions fall within the scope of legality. [Swissinfo]

END of UPDATE

June 27 2017 — The Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe ruled that Daniel M. — 54-year-old — must remain in custody, a spokesperson of the Attorney-General’s Office told Swiss media.

“The arrest warrant is maintained and will be kept in place,” the spokesperson told news agencies, confirming an online report by SRF.

Last week, his lawyers had called for the arrest warrant to be lifted. In a written statement submitted to the Karlsruhe court, the defence lawyers said Daniel M. had received “occasional small orders” from the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) but that these were of “secondary” importance and the information gathered did not go against German interests.

The man was tasked with identifying German tax investigators who purchased CDs containing details of bank account holders in foreign tax havens such as Switzerland. [The Local]

This information helped Swiss authorities file charges against three German tax inspectors for breaching Swiss banking laws and economic espionage.

The state of North Rhine-Westphalia alone has spent millions of euros on at least 11 CDs containing information on German citizens with Swiss bank accounts.

Swiss officials defend alleged spying on German tax-fraud investigators

Switzerland objects to the practice of buying data stolen from Swiss banks. The mole allegedly spied inside North Rhine-Westphalia’s finance ministry.

On Tuesday May 9 2017, the FIS defended its efforts to prevent the theft of Swiss business secrets, but declined to comment directly on the Frankfurt arrest.

FIS Director Markus Seiler said:

“When someone in Switzerland uses illegal methods in Switzerland to steal state or business secrets, that is espionage, and we have the task to fight that.”

Bizarre twist

At some point, Switzerland’s intelligence chiefs seem to have concluded that the Germans had gone far enough and decided to investigate the theft of data from Swiss banks.

Who had stolen it, who was selling it and who was buying it on behalf of Germany?

The intelligence service turned to Daniel M, now no longer working for UBS, because – and here is the bizarre twist – he was suspected of dealing with the Germans in stolen banking data.

Long before his arrest in Frankfurt, Daniel M had already been arrested in Zurich as part of an investigation into the theft of bank data.

What happened during that arrest? Was Daniel M “turned” by the Swiss authorities? [BBC]

Germany and Switzerland sign a “no spying” accord 

Germany and Switzerland are reported to have agreed to stop spying on each other.

According to Swiss paper Tages Anzeiger and the German Süddeutsche Zeitung the countries signed a memorandum of understanding in January 2017.

The two countries will inform each other if they intend to carry out clandestine crime surveillance operations on their neighbour’s territory.

 “Such cloak and dagger methods are no longer thought to be necessary with Switzerland agreeing to disclose information about tax accounts held by foreigners. Neither country was prepared to comment on the reported no-spying agreement.”

Swiss officials defend alleged spying on German tax-fraud investigators

UPDATE 1 (Aug 17 2017) — German prosecutors have opened proceedings against three members of the Swiss secret services for allegedly spying on their neighbour. The move could further sour relations between the two countries, which have been damaged by an ongoing stolen bank data scandal. [SwissInfo]

The Tages Anzeiger and Süddeutschen Zeitung newspapers reported on Monday that three personnel at the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) have now been targeted by German prosecutors. They are alleged to have helped Daniel M carry out his work as a double agent.

Unlike Daniel M, none of the trio have been detained, but media speculates that they could be arrested if they leave Switzerland.

Switzerland responded to the arrest by issuing arrest warrants for a number of German tax investigators. But Germany dismissed the move, saying it would refuse to comply with the warrants.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel has described the ongoing episode as “incredible” and warned it could “wreck” the relationship between the two countries.

UPDATE 2 (Nov 12 2017) — A German court has handed a suspended sentence of one year and 10 months to the former Zurich police detective for spying on the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia’s (NRW) tax authority and some of its staff for nearly four years up to February 2015.

The regional court in Germany’s financial capital, Frankfurt, also slapped a fine of €25,000 ($29,000) on the 54-year-old Swiss double agent.

The lenient sentence followed a detailed confession by Daniel M. in October, when he admitted that he was paid by Swiss intelligence agency NDB to find out the names, addresses and telephone numbers of German tax officials.

Germany: Swiss spy receives 22-month suspended sentence in Frankfurt

 

REFERENCES

Swiss ‘spied inside German ministry’ in tax scandal — BBC News

Germany and Switzerland ‘sign no spying accord’  — Telegraph

The Swiss, the Germans, and the mysterious case of Daniel M — BBC News

 German court on Tuesday rejected a request to release a Swiss man being held on suspicion of spying.  — The Local

UPDATE

Germany seeks arrest of Swiss secret service members — SwissInfo.CH

German court hands suspended sentence to Swiss spy for snooping on tax officials — DW

Government reacts to criticism of ‘utility’ of spy Daniel M. — Swissinfo

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German court rejects request to release Swiss suspected spy

German court rejects request to release Swiss suspected spy — [UPDATE]

German Court Rejects Request to Release Swiss Suspected Spy — [UPDATE-3]

 

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