Swiss banking scandal could see UK taxman miss out on billions

The taxman could miss out on a windfall of nearly £2 billion due to around 200,000 investors failing to make claims from a long-running Swiss banking scandal, lawyers have warned.

In 2012 Swiss courts ruled that banks in the country had been unlawfully charging hidden fees on savers and ordered them to return the cash, in echoes of the UK’s PPI scandal.

But a deadline has been set for the end of this year, and around £4.68 billion remains unclaimed by investors in the UK, according to litigation funding firm Liti-Link.

Hubert Schwarzler, chief executive of Liti-Link, said: “New Year’s Eve could be a sorry start to 2020 for savers who have been swindled by greedy Swiss banks.

“We urge anyone who has invested in Swiss banks over the last decade to contact Liti-Link as soon as possible.

“It might be the difference between getting a surprise Christmas bonus, or starting the New Year out of pocket.”

He added that savers in Swiss banks from Italy and Germany have already inundated his company, but investors from the UK have been slower to act.

The average amount owed to British investors is thought to be around £23,400, and if all £4.68 billion was returned, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) would be in line for a tax take of £1.87 billion.

For years, Swiss banks, including UBS and Credit Suisse, claimed underhand commission fees of up to 2% on money invested by their clients, without their informed consent.

That was until Swiss courts said unless fees were charged with explicit authorisation, bankers cannot retain them and must hand back the cash to savers who request it, with a 5% interest charge for late payment.

But judges also imposed a time limit for claims, and clients can only recover their money up to 10 years since the fees were charged.

The right of clients who were charged fees in 2009 to claim back their money will expire in 2019: so New Year’s Eve could be a sorry start to 2020 for savers left out of pocket.

The underhand commission fees, or “retrocessions”, were a well-established and lucrative component of Swiss investment practice for many years.