US tax dodgers targeted as Swiss ease secrecy

Switzerland has agreed to adopt new rules that would free its banks to reach settlements with the US authorities as they go after wealthy Americans suspected of using the European country's financial secrecy regime to evade taxes.

Following a meeting of the Swiss federal council, the government in Bern agreed to rush through legislation which would allow local lenders to share information with American authorities about employees involved in their US businesses, and relationships concerning US citizens.

More specific client data, including account information, would not be covered by the new law, the government said. The law would allow banks to strike deals with the US, which has been investigating a number of Swiss lenders. In 2009, the Americans made a major breakthrough, securing an agreement with UBS that saw the banking giant pay nearly $800m (£529m) in fines and share the names of more than 4,000 clients. That information is believed to have helped the US as it investigated other banks.

More recently, Switzerland's oldest bank, Wegelin & Co, which was established in the 1700s, said in January that it was closing after pleading guilty to helping wealthy American citizens evade taxes.

Faced with growing pressure from the US, the Swiss government has been attempting to find a way to settle the entire affair, while also safeguarding its financial industry, which is known worldwide for its secrecy.

Switzerland's finance minister, Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, said the idea was to "restore stability" to the local banking industry.

"We are convinced it's a good, pragmatic solution that really helps the banks resolve this issue," she said, denying reports that the Swiss government might first pay billions of dollars in fines to the US to cover the expected liabilities of its banks, and then recoup the money from the lenders.

"I can tell you that Switzerland will pay nothing," Ms Widmer-Schlumpf added. Individual banks will themselves decide whether or not to negotiate with the US.

The Swiss government said yesterday it was going to rush through the new law because the US was "unprepared to wait any longer".

The new provisions would be "restricted to one year", giving banks enough time to strike deals and head off the possibility of potentially ruinous prosecutions.

"If banks were not authorised to cooperate with the US authorities, the initiation of further criminal investigations or charges concerning banking institutions could not be ruled out," the government said. "The uncertainty for the financial centre would continue to exist."

While the government did not put a figure on how much Swiss banks might pay in fines to end the US inquiries, recent speculation has thrown up a range of anywhere from $7bn to $10bn.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Market Risk & Control Manager

Up to £100k or £450p/d: Saxton Leigh: My client is a leading commodities tradi...

SQL Developer - Watford/NW London - £320 - £330 p/d - 6 months

£320 - £330 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...

Head of Audit

To £75,000 + Pension + Benefits + Bonus: Saxton Leigh: My client is looking f...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam