RBS pays €23.8m to settle tax evasion inquiry into Coutts' Swiss operation

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Royal Bank of Scotland is paying €23.8m (£17.3m) to German prosecutors to settle an investigation into tax evasion by part of Coutts, best known for being banker to the Queen.

The settlement is the latest embarrassment for the bailed-out bank, which had been subjected to a 10-year inquiry into activities in the Swiss banking arm of Coutts.

RBS sold the Swiss operation to Union Bancaire Privée this year, after revealing that German prosecutors were investigating current and former employees of the private bank’s Zurich and Geneva offices.

It continues to own the domestic operation of Coutts, which was founded in 1692 and still operates under the the three gold crowns logo that John Campbell used as the bank’s sign when he set up the business in the Strand, London. The operation looks after the Queen’s personal accounts and requires customers to hold £1m of free assets to stand a chance of opening an account.

The settlement with the German prosecutors involved immunity for any current or former staff.

The investigation emerged in February when Ross McEwan, the RBS chief executive, said private banks had been too slow to clean up their businesses after the 2008 crisis.

He said at the time: “Any situation like this we take seriously … it is the reputation of our business. This is what has tarnished the banking industry and in my view private banks have taken far too long to catch up with the public’s expectations.”

RBS said on Wednesday: “Our Swiss bank, Coutts & Co Ltd, has reached a settlement with the German authorities to resolve this matter.”

Coutts’ Swiss operation is being investigated by US authorities over alleged tax avoidance.

McEwan had put the international operations of Coutts up for sale before the German investigation was revealed.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Jill Treanor, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 9th December 2015 14.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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