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Fury at Angela Merkel plan to buy stolen bank data

Chancellor Angela Merkel faced a blistering political row with Switzerland and her own conservatives yesterday over a plan to buy stolen Swiss bank data naming hundreds of German tax evaders who have millions of euros in secret accounts.

A CD identifying some 1,500 Germans who have illicit Swiss accounts was procured by a former employee at the Geneva branch of HSBC bank. The disc, which could return an estimated €200m (£175m) in lost revenue, was offered to the German government for €2.5m (£2.2m) at the weekend.

Mrs Merkel initially greeted the offer as a welcome means of bringing tax evaders to book.

Yesterday, however, it became clear that Germany's apparent readiness to buy stolen bank data had plunged Mrs Merkel into a row with Switzerland and her own conservative Christian Democratic Union. Leading members of the party described the plan to buy the CD as immoral.

Adrian Amstutz, of the right-wing Swiss People's Party, said Mrs Merkel's announcement meant that relations between Switzerland and Germany would “sink to a level not seen since the era of Hitler”.

The ex-HSBC employee cited as having offered the stolen data to Germany has been identified as Hervé Falciani, a French citizen.

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