Majority of Swiss reject bank secrecy changes

11th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Eight out of 10 surveyed feel the Swiss bank secrecy regime should be preserved.

Geneva – Most Swiss do not want any concessions made over banking secrecy, a survey showed Wednesday as Switzerland comes under intense 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 regime 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 fallout from the worst global financial crisis in years, reformers have called for more transparency in the system so that capital flows and risk levels can be more easily tracked.

They say that bank secrecy and tax havens have played a large part in the unfolding crisis which has pushed the global economy into recession as banks freeze credit for fear of taking even more losses.

As a result, Switzerland has come under intense pressure over the banking secrecy laws which have been a key pillar of its financial services industry.

Critics say that among other things, these provisions also encourage tax evaders to hide assets in Swiss banks.

In February, in an unprecedented move, 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 (EUR 613.3 million) to settle a case in which it was accused of abetting tax fraud by US clients.

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

In Europe, France and Germany are pushing for an international blacklist of tax havens to be drawn that would punish countries seen as uncooperative.

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

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