ZURICH, March 24 The Swiss government on Sunday
denied a newspaper report that the country had reached a deal in
principle with the United States over undeclared funds hidden by
wealthy Americans in Swiss offshore bank accounts.
"There is no agreed framework. The negotiations for an
industry-wide deal to enable all Swiss banks to draw a line
under the matter are ongoing," Swiss government spokesman Mario
Tuor said in an emailed statement to Reuters.
Tuor was responding to a report in Sunday's edition of
weekly Neue Zuercher Zeitung am Sonntag which said that, instead
of an industry-wide settlement for the Swiss private banking
industry, banks including Credit Suisse and Julius
Baer as well as all others with U.S. clients would
negotiate individual penalties with U.S. officials.
The NZZ am Sonntag cited undisclosed sources in its story.
The Swiss government's comments on Sunday, however, left the
door open to an alternative to an industry-wide settlement.
"The federal council will explore possible solutions in its
regular meetings with bank representatives," Tuor said, without
The plan outlined by the NZZ am Sonntag would see each Swiss
bank with U.S. clients negotiating individual settlements with
the United States for its role in hiding untaxed money.
Most of the 13 banks in the crosshairs of U.S. justice
officials, which include Credit Suisse and Julius Baer, have
said they are already in settlement negotiations.
What is new is that the remainder of Switzerland's more than
300 banks with U.S. clients would have to seek a U.S. settlement
individually, according to the NZZ.
Those banks would be required to "motivate" remaining U.S.
clients to come clean to U.S. tax officials. If they failed to
do so, confidential bank data would be forwarded to U.S.
officials. The initial shipment of data from those banks would
not include client names but, based on the data, U.S. officials
would be able to submit a judicial aid requests to get the names
of alleged tax evaders, the newspaper said.
The report comes a month after Switzerland and the United
States agreed a pact to make Swiss banks disclose information
about U.S. account-holders in the future, which NZZ said paved
the way for a deal to settle past transgressions as
Spokesmen for Credit Suisse and Julius Baer declined to
comment. The Swiss banking lobby wasn't immediately available
The NZZ did not say whether the deal it reported would end
protracted negotiations and legal action against Swiss banks.
Earlier this month, Switzerland's oldest bank, Wegelin & Co,
was fined nearly $58 million after it admitted to helping
wealthy Americans evade taxes.
Last year, Wegelin said it would shut its doors permanently
after pleading guilty to charges of helping wealthy Americans
evade taxes through secret accounts.
The latest tax crackdown comes several years after U.S.
authorities extracted an admission of wrong-doing from UBS
that was accompanied by the release of thousands of
sets of client data plus a $780 million payment by UBS to avert
Through information gleaned from UBS as well as thousands of
so-called voluntary disclosures by one-time Swiss banking
clients in the United States, officials there were able to mount
the second wave of investigation into Swiss banks.