BERNE, June 19 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.