BERLIN Nov 20 German Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schaeuble has warned opposition parties against blocking a deal
to tax assets stashed by German citizens in Swiss bank accounts
ahead of a vote in parliament's upper house on Friday.
German states run by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens
have vowed to veto the agreement between Berlin and Berne,
saying it lets tax evaders off too easily.
"Given the meagre revenues in the German states and
municipalities, I find it completely unacceptable for the
Bundesrat to reject the tax deal with Switzerland," Schaeuble
said on Tuesday in a speech to the Bundestag lower house.
"There is no rational, comprehensible argument" against the
deal, he added. "If you feel responsible for the revenues of
Germany and its states, then give up your politically-motivated
Schaeuble has been the leading advocate of a deal that would
require Swiss banks to levy a punitive charge of some 150
billion euros on undeclared funds held by Germans and tax future
income. The proceeds would be passed on to Germany without the
identity of the account holders being revealed.
With less than a year to go until Germany holds an election,
the SPD are describing the deal as an example of Chancellor
Angela Merkel's soft approach on financial crimes committed by
They are vowing to put their rejection of the deal at the
centre of an election campaign focused on "social justice". That
campaign is being led by Peer Steinbrueck, a former finance
minister who cracked down ruthlessly on bank secrecy, famously
referring to the Swiss as Indians running scared from the
If the deal is rejected in the Bundesrat upper house on
Friday, it could still be salvaged in a mediation procedure that
seeks to resolve differences between the Bundestag and
Bundesrat, but the chances of that happening are slim.
Switzerland has already done similar deals with Britain and
Austria, and hopes countries like Greece and Italy will follow
suit. On Monday, a judicial source said the former head of UBS's
French arm had been placed under investigation as part
of a probe into whether the Swiss bank helped clients evade
(Reporting by Noah Barkin; Editing by Catherine Evans)