FRANKFURT (Reuters) - A German court handed a Swiss man accused of spying on a German tax authority a suspended prison term of a year and 10 months and a fine of 40,000 euros ($46,392) on Thursday, ending a case that pitted Swiss bank secrecy against German fiscal propriety.
The 54-year-old man, named only as Daniel M., has admitted trying to obtain personal contact details of German tax officials on behalf of Swiss intelligence, which wanted to prosecute the officials for obtaining secret bank data.
German states including the one in question, North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), have over the past few years got hold of CDs containing details of bank accounts held secretly in Switzerland by Germans hoping to avoid tax.
Swiss authorities say this amounts to the theft of business secrets, while German officials say they are combating illegal tax evasion.
Lawyers for Daniel M., whose spying activities lasted from 2011 until 2015, had argued in the court in Frankfurt, the city where he was detained in May, that their client was a "patriot" simply caught between two ideologies.
The Swiss Banking Act requires employees of Swiss-regulated banks to keep client information confidential, but a number of staff have leaked account details to foreign authorities in the past decade as Western governments crack down on tax evasion.
Whistleblowers and new disclosure standards have proven costly for Swiss banks, which have suffered hundreds of billions of dollars in outflows as a result. Over a third of Swiss private banks have permanently closed.
(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Gareth Jones)