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Coutts' Swiss bank in German tax evasion probe

Coutts flags Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Coutts bank: Swiss operations under investigation over tax evasion allegations

German prosecutors are investigating the Swiss-based private banking arm of Coutts over allegations it helped clients evade tax.

Coutts, which manages the Queen's private accounts, is owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

RBS said that the investigation involved current and former staff as well as the bank itself.

The bank said it was co-operating with the prosecuting authority.

RBS chief executive Ross McEwan told a press conference on Thursday: "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."

Swiss private banks are under intense scrutiny in the UK following revelations that HSBC's Swiss unit helped clients evade tax.

On Wednesday the chairman and chief executive of HSBC apologised publicly for "unacceptable" practices at the private bank.

International sale

Last year RBS appointed Goldman Sachs to find a buyer for Coutts' international operations, as part of its drive to focus on the UK business.

Coutts International employs 1,200 people, has some £21.5bn of assets under management and has an estimated value of up £800m .

A buyer would have to find a new name for the international operation as RBS intends to keep the Coutts brand for the UK business.

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