Ex-UBS Wealth Chief Again Calls Bankers ‘Egomaniacs’ in Tax Case

The only UBS Group AG executive cleared in a landmark tax trial again told a Paris court that the 19,000 bankers he once managed were “egomaniacs.”

Raoul Weil, the former head of UBS’s wealth-management unit, testified Wednesday at an appellate hearing as French prosecutors seek to overturn the not guilty verdict against him. As part of the same proceedings, the bank is challenging a 4.5 billion-euro ($5.4 billion) penalty in the case.

UBS and several bankers were convicted of charges that the Swiss lender helped clients launder funds through numbered accounts and trusts that should have been declared to French tax officials.

Some of the accusations emerged due to tensions between Swiss and French bankers advising French clients. Weil sought to downplay the significance of the disputes by describing what kind of “animals” the bankers were.

“At the end of the day they are always egomaniacs,” 62-year-old said, repeating remarks made during the first trial in 2018.

He said he didn’t personally get involved in such conflicts, which were resolved by local management. UBS tried to overcome such issues by offering training programs and putting forward best practices, but problems were unavoidable.

“They are very territorial, egocentric and clients -- they don’t consider them to be clients of the bank -- they are their clients,” he said. “So that they get into arguments it’s in their nature.”

Read more: Ex-UBS Wealth Chief in Tax Case Calls French Bankers Egomaniac

Weil told the court how the tax evasion allegations in both France and the U.S. upended his life, and his career. He was indicted in the U.S. -- where he was also cleared -- on the eve of his birthday in 2008.

“This was one day before my 49th birthday, that’s why I remember,” Weil told judges at the Paris court of appeals. “That same night at 10 o’clock I was fired.”

While UBS agreed to pay the U.S. $780 million to avoid prosecution in 2009, Weil’s ordeal included being arrested during a holiday in Italy and sharing a cell with an Albanian drug lord before his acquittal five years later.

“I took me a while to recover,” he said on Wednesday.

In the French case, investigators alleged Weil participated in a system to help wealthy French clients stash undeclared funds in Swiss accounts. He was further accused of covertly dispatching Swiss bankers across the border to unlawfully seek out new French customers.

Weil was questioned by Paris appellate judges about Swiss bankers described as “hunters” who allegedly repeatedly came to France to unlawfully offer financial services to prospective clients.

The former UBS executive said sharing responsibilities between “hunters” and so-called “farmers” -- more prone to helping existing customers than to seeking out new ones -- was “a stupid idea.”

“It’s like if you go to a bar, you pick up a girl and then when she becomes your girlfriend you hand her over to your best friend,” Weil said. “It doesn’t work in human relationships and I was totally opposed to that.”

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