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Most Swiss reject bank secrecy changes

Published on 11/03/2009

GENEVA - Most Swiss do not want any compromises made over banking secrecy, a survey showed Wednesday as Switzerland faces international pressure to change its confidentiality laws.

The Swiss Bankers Association found in a survey of about 1,000 people that close to eight out of every 10 believe that its bank secrecy system should be preserved.

"As in past years, a majority of those interviewed (59 percent) feel that international pressure is strong but three-quarters want Switzerland to refuse to make any concessions," the association said in a statement.

In the results of the worst global financial crisis in years, reformers called for more openness in the system so that money exchanges and risk levels can be more easily tracked.

They say that bank secrecy and tax havens were largely responsible for the crisis which caused a global recession as banks continue to freeze credit for fear of greater losses.

As a result, Switzerland came under intense pressure over the banking secrecy laws which are a foundation of its financial services industry.

Critics say that these laws also encourage tax evaders to hide assets in Swiss banks.

In February the country’s biggest bank UBS provided information on up to 300 clients to the US government and paid a fine of USD 780 million (CHF 908 million) to settle a case in which it was accused of assisting tax fraud by US clients.

The US government since filed a separate lawsuit to force UBS to reveal the identities of 52,000 US customers who allegedly evaded taxes.

In Europe, France and Germany want to develop an international blacklist of tax havens that would punish uncooperative countries.

Asked after an EU summit in Brussels in February whether Switzerland could be on the blacklist, French President Nicolas Sarkozy replied, "That depends on their response but as things stand … the answer is probably, yes."

AFP / Expatica