Lender demands more client information from Switzerland
BERNE - Reuters
Raiffeisen bank logo is pictured in front of a local branch in Nyon, Switzerland. AA photoSwitzerland might have to accept an automatic exchange of bank client information with the European Union if its strategy of trying to defend bank secrecy with a withholding tax fails, the head of cooperative Raiffeisen was quoted as saying yesterday.
A global crackdown on tax evasion by cash-strapped governments in recent years has chipped away Switzerland’s cherished tradition of banking secrecy, which had helped it build up a $2 trillion offshore wealth management industry.
Pierin Vincenz, chief executive of Switzerland’s third biggest bank Raiffeisen, said the country’s strategy of seeking a separate tax deal with individual European partners could falter if it agrees to hand over large amounts of U.S. client data.
“If the Americans get thousands of client data, the Europeans will want that too,” Vincenz told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper in an interview.
“We must finally show that Switzerland is serious with a ‘clean money’ strategy. And that will in the end only be possible with an internationally supported strategy.”
Switzerland has struck deals with Germany and Britain to allow citizens to pay tax on secret accounts without revealing their identities, but these have faced resistance from the European Commission, which wants to force Switzerland to accept an automatic exchange of bank information.
“If we agree a withholding tax with all the countries around us, it will be very inefficient because each country has their own definition of how it should be calculated and there will have to be continuous adjustments,” Vincenz said.
Switzerland has been lobbying for a year to end investigations by U.S. tax authorities into 11 banks, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, in return for the payment of hefty fines and the transfer of the names of thousands of U.S. bank clients.
The pressure of the U.S. investigation prompted the break up last month of Switzerland’s oldest bank, Wegelin, with Raiffeisen buying up the bank’s core non-U.S. business.
The Swiss parliament is set to vote on a proposal today that would allow the country to meet U.S. demands to hand over data on U.S. bank clients suspected of using secret Swiss accounts to evade taxes.