Swiss cancel US Senate trip in protest

23rd February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Switzerland cancels a meeting to protest the US’s treatment of UBS.

GENEVA - Switzerland cancelled an appearance before a US Senate sub-committee to protest US government treatment of its biggest bank, UBS, over tax fraud claims, the ATS news agency reported Sunday.

"The Swiss government regrets that the US Department of Justice has threatened UBS with unilateral measures despite the cooperation of the bank and the Swiss authorities," ATS reported, citing a letter sent to the US Senate.

It said the Swiss government was always ready to cooperate with the United States on the basis of legal provisions and bilateral accords already in place.

A US Senate committee meeting on UBS under Democratic Senator Carl Levin was scheduled for Tuesday but is now delayed to 4 March, ATS said.

On Wednesday, UBS, Switzerland's biggest bank, reached a settlement with US authorities in which it admitted to US tax fraud and agreed to pay USD 780 million. It was also ordered to provide details of 250 to 300 US clients.

However, the US Justice Department then launched a separate lawsuit to force UBS to name another 52,000 US customers who allegedly evaded taxes.

UBS vowed to fight the court action, which directly challenges the bank secrecy laws central to Switzerland's role as a major international financial centre.

The Swiss government insisted that bank secrecy remains intact.

Many governments, however, prioritise increasing banks’ visible and available information in addressing the global financial downturn. Major losses were caused by unclear, secretive instruments in many banking systems.

[AFP / Expatica]

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