* Pictet says will cooperate with U.S. justice
* Pictet says business with U.S. clients complies with law
* Bank had already handed over account data
* Swiss seeking deal to get investigations dropped
ZURICH, Nov 25 Swiss private bank Pictet is
under investigation by the U.S. authorities, the bank said on
Sunday, making it the latest Swiss bank to come under scrutiny
in a U.S. probe into the use of foreign banks by wealthy
Americans seeking to avoid paying tax.
Pictet said in a statement the U.S. Department of Justice
had made a "general inquiry" into its wealth management business
with U.S. clients, adding it would cooperate fully.
The U.S. investigation is part of a global offensive on the
tradition of strict banking secrecy that has helped Switzerland
build up a $2 trillion offshore wealth management industry.
Pictet issued the statement after Der Sonntag newspaper
reported that the U.S. authorities were investigating
Switzerland's largest unlisted private bank.
"Pictet has made it a priority to ensure that its business
with U.S. clients complies with all the relevant laws and
regulations governing its conduct," the bank said.
Pictet denied earlier this year it was being investigated by
U.S. officials even though it had handed over some details of
specific accounts to the U.S. authorities in November 2010.
UBS was the first Swiss bank to come under
scrutiny by the U.S. authorities in a tax evasion crackdown, an
investigation it settled in 2009 by handing over client data,
admitting wrongdoing, and paying a $780 million fine to avert
U.S. officials have subsequently mined the UBS data as well
as a flood of voluntary disclosures by U.S. citizens and have
widened their investigation to other Swiss banks, including
Credit Suisse and Julius Baer.
Switzerland is trying to get those investigations dropped in
return for the payment of fines and the transfer of names of
U.S. clients. It is also seeking a deal to shield the remainder
of its 300 or so banks from U.S. prosecution.