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Swiss scold German finance minister in tax spat

Published on 27/10/2008

Hamburg -- Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey scolded a German leader in an interview published Saturday while denying Switzerland was a tax haven.

In remarks to Der Spiegel, she said Switzerland was "astonished" at the tone of remarks Tuesday by German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck, who grumbled Berne was not tipping Germany off about tax evaders.

She warned him not to try to place Switzerland on an Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) blacklist of nations that assist foreigners to evade taxes.

This would be a breach of a German-Swiss taxation treaty, she charged. "It would not be the approach one expects from a state bound by the rule of law," she said. "We were very astonished, shocked and above all disappointed at this tone. That is not the way to speak to a partner nation. Switzerland is not a tax haven."

For years Germany has complained that small neighbors, which offer confidential bank accounts, have been enabling Germans to drive over the border with suitcases full of cash and invest the money without revealing the income to German tax authorities.