Coutts fined €23.8m over tax evasion allegations

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UK private bank Coutts & Co has been fined €23.8m (£18.8m) for the alleged “aiding and abetting of tax evasion” by some of its clients.

The fine, which was paid in December, was revealed on Thursday in Royal Bank of Scotland’s annual report, in which it recorded an almost £2bn loss.

RBS, which owns Coutts, said the investigation was carried out by the German regulator, and involved “current and former” members of staff of the bank’s Swiss arm.

“Coutts & Co Ltd cooperated with the relevant authorities and on 4 Dec 2015 paid €23.8m to settle the investigation against it,” RBS said, adding that the settlement amount was covered by an existing provision.

RBS also disclosed that, on 23 Dec 2015, its Swiss division paid the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) a US$78.5m (£56m) penalty, as part of a programme that allowed cooperative Swiss banks to avoid prosecution for concealing US taxpayers’ funds in offshore accounts.

The ‘non-prosecution agreement’ with the DOJ will last four years, RBS said.

RBS records almost £2bn loss

The bank recorded an overall loss attributable to shareholders of £1.979bn, down from £3.47bn in 2014. It was the eighth year in a row the bank, which owns Natwest and Ulster Bank as well as Coutts, posted a net loss.

Among its expenses were “elevated restructuring costs” of £2.931bn and “litigation and conduct costs” of £3.568bn. Other drags included a £498m charge for “goodwill impairment” attributed to Private Banking, and a loss on redemption of own debt of £263 million.

The Private Banking division underperformed compared to the previous year, with adjusted operating profit of £113 million, 41% lower than 2014.