According to the Swiss news outlet tagesanzeiger.ch, Daniel M., a 54-year-old man working as an agent for the Swiss federal intelligence service (FIS), was tasked to identify German tax investigators involved in the purchase of “tax cheat” CDs listing German citizens’ account information with several Swiss and Liechtenstein banks.
“Germany carried out economic espionage in buying these CD-Roms containing banking data,” Corina Eichenberger, vice-president of a delegation that supervises the FIS, said in a statement.
With the data acquired the Swiss agent was put on a counter-espionage mission to find out who ordered the purchase of the CDs.
“On the back of his information, arrest warrants were issued for three German tax inspectors for alleged economic espionage,” Eichenberger said. The vice president emphasized that counter-espionage is part of the intelligence service’s tasks and it was carried out within the limits of the law. She stated that if the delegation didn’t think that the mission of the Swiss agent was legal, they would have intervened and at least “rebuked” the FIS for its actions. Eichenberger added that Daniel M.’s arrest was related to his mission, but “something different”.
According to tagesanzeiger.ch, Daniel M. sought help from an Israeli private investigator during his espionage mission. Tal H. is accustomed to dangerous assignments, he formerly worked as a member of the demolitions squad in the Israeli army. Today, the 45-year-old in Tel Aviv owns a security firm, advising large banks, millionaires and governments. He advertises his company on LinkedIn as a firm that helps customers “solve most of their problems”. However, in the summer of 2014, Tal H. had difficulties meeting up with his slogan. Daniel M., a friend from Switzerland, had asked him with an almost insoluble problem. He was looking for someone who can obtain bank data from the retired German secret service officer August Hanning. The Israeli private investigator had never had such an order.
At first, the private investigator reached the Federal Criminal Police in Bern, who told the Israeli later that they can’t help him. Soon after, Tal H. decided to obtain the information using another method. The Israeli gave an order to “Sergei”, his IT specialist to acquire the data Daniel M. requested from his company. The IT specialist accessed the dark web and met a contact who claimed to be able to deliver the banking data in a Russian chat room. Sergei’s action was successful. After that, the procedure was easy between Tal H. and Daniel M., they negotiated the price, contacted each other via SMS, then met at a location not described in detail, and passed the USB stick with the precious information on it to the Swiss agent. When Daniel M. arrived at the office, he printed the documents, scanned them and mailed them to Zürich. Even the Swiss agent was surprised that he could obtain the information through an abroad private investigator.
A few days ago, the German and Swiss government agreed not to conduct espionage activities against each other. In the future, Swiss intelligence will have to inform German authorities, when they have to carry out espionage activities for conducting an anti-crime operation in Germany, and vice versa. Intelligence services of both countries have been spying and collecting data on taxpayers to prosecute those, who attempted to avoid paying taxes in the home country breaching the laws in one of the countries. Switzerland has been infamous for a long time as a heaven for people who seek to avoid taxes in their home countries thanks to the country’s bank secrecy. However, the situation changed, when Swiss authorities signed an agreement on the automatic exchange of the data on bank accounts.