In Brief

Germany accuses Switzerland of espionage

The investigation adds fire to a long-running tax dispute between the two countries

German prosecutors have launched an investigation into whether Switzerland's Federal Intelligence Service (NDB) has been spying on Germany's tax authority.

Citing "trusted sources", Suddeutsche Zeitung reports that the federal prosecutor's office has quietly begun looking into accusations that earlier this month the NDB tried to indentify investigators working on a tax crackdown targeting Swiss banks.

Switzerland's banking secrecy laws have long made it a refuge for tax dodgers and "led to a long-running fiscal dispute with Germany", says Deutsche Welle.

The German tax authorities have obtained disks and USB drives containing stolen private data leaked from Swiss banks, "which have then been used to identify German tax cheats", says The Independent. This has led the Swiss authorities to issue arrest warrants for German tax inspectors.

One Swiss national, known as Daniel M, has already been charged with espionage after he was arrested in Frankfurt while apparently procuring personal information about German tax authorities for the NDB. It is believed the subsequent investigation has uncovered at least two other Swiss spies who are the focus of the prosecutor's case.

German foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel described the episode as "incredible" and warned it could "wreck" the two countries' relationship.

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