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Report: French court rejects UBS' plea to junk money laundering charges

A French court denied Swiss bank UBS Group AG's request to drop money laundering charges against it and limit its trial to tax fraud complicity, an offense carrying lighter penalties, Reuters reported Oct. 11.

UBS, its French unit and six of its executives were charged with aggravated tax fraud and money laundering over allegations that they wealthy clients evade taxes in France. The country is demanding €1.6 billion in damages, which were excessive, according to UBS lawyer Jean Veil's appeal to the court on the first day of the hearing, Reuters noted.

The bank said it still expects the constitutional court to requalify the charges, according to the report.

"We believe that the prosecution has not presented any evidence to support that a crime has been committed," UBS reportedly said. "We look forward to finally being able to present all of our factual and legal arguments to the court."

UBS could be required to pay up to €5 billion in fines if found guilty of money laundering and might be ordered to pay damages to the French taxman, while the concerned executives could go to jail, Reuters added.

The bank had turned down a €1.1 billion settlement offer from the French authorities after a seven-year investigation, Reuters said, citing unnamed judicial sources.