Swiss parliament rejects U.S. tax deal

BERNE, June 19 Wed Jun 19, 2013 11:15am EDT

BERNE, June 19 (Reuters) - The Swiss lower house of parliament dealt a final death blow on Wednesday to a draft law aimed at protecting the country's banks from criminal charges in the United States for helping wealthy Americans to evade tax.

The Swiss government has warned that the bill's failure could prompt impatient U.S. prosecutors to indict banks, although it could still invoke an executive order to allow them to hand over data to try to avert charges.

The bill was aimed at allowing banks to sidestep Swiss secrecy laws by disclosing their U.S. dealings in a bid to help them strike deals that are nevertheless expected to include fines that could cost the industry as much as $10 billion.

Lawmakers from both the lower and upper houses of parliament agreed a statement saying they supported a solution to the long-running tax dispute and called on the government to allow banks to cooperate under existing laws.

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