Swiss to debate moves to settle U.S. tax dispute next week
ZURICH, June 26
ZURICH, June 26 (Reuters) - The government has scheduled next Wednesday to discuss its response to threats of U.S. criminal action against Swiss banks, taking it beyond an end-June deadline it set for action on one of the gravest risks to the country's financial sector.
The government is considering an executive order permitting banks to disclose details of suspected tax avoiders to U.S. investigators, after parliament last week rejected a move to allow lenders to sidestep strict secrecy laws.
"The government will discuss this at its next meeting" on July 3, government spokesman Andre Simonazzi said at the government's weekly press briefing on Wednesday.
Finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf cited the existence of the June 30 deadline in an attempt to clinch parliament's backing the draft law.
The government has since backed away from that date, but said the situation remains acutely urgent because of the risk that the United States will indict Swiss banks.
The Swiss finance ministry has said it informed the U.S. Department of Justice of the likely delay in response following parliament's rejection of the bill.
U.S. authorities have consistently declined comment on the matter.
The lack of clarity surrounding the end-June date has led critics such as Philipp Mueller, head of the liberal Free Democrats, to accuse Widmer-Schlumpf of scaremongering to swing lawmakers into voting for the deal.
U.S. authorities have more than a dozen banks under formal investigation, including Credit Suisse, Julius Baer , the Swiss arm of Britain's HSBC, privately held Pictet in Geneva and local government-backed Zuercher Kantonalbank and Basler Kantonalbank. (Reporting By Katharina Bart; Editing by David Cowell)