Swiss finance minister says banking secrecy 'intact'

20th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

FINMA orders UBS to reveal customer details in US tax fraud cases.

BERN - Switzerland's Finance Minister on Thursday said banking secrecy remained "intact", even though the country's biggest bank UBS revealed customer details in order to settle charges of tax fraud with US authorities.

"Banking secrecy remains intact", Hans-Rudolf Merz said, adding that it "doesn't protect tax frauders".

Under the banking secrecy law, banks in Switzerland are prohibited from providing any information to authorities or any third parties on their clients, except in cases involving recognised criminal investigations.

However, the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority (FINMA) ordered the country's banking flagship to reveal the account details of customers targeted by the US justice investigation.

UBS chairman Peter Kurer justified the move, saying that client confidentiality "was never designed to protect fraudulent acts or the identity of those clients who ... misused the confidentiality protections ... by providing false declarations regarding their tax status".

Fraud is a criminal offence in Swiss law, while tax evasion is only classified as a misdemeanour, unlike most countries, and subject to fines in Switzerland.

[AFP / Expatica]

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