* Swiss parliamentary commission panel backs govt plan
* Govt proposal must be approved by Swiss parliament
* Proposal translates to ongoing tax talks
By Katharina Bart and David Ingram
BERNE/WASHINGTON, Nov 10 A Swiss parliamentary
commission on Thursday recommended lawmakers back a proposal
clarifying how Switzerland would hand over data on wealthy
Americans suspected of cheating and dodging taxes at home.
The proposal is meant to reinforce a double tax pact
already reached between Switzerland and the United States, and
to end a long-simmering dispute over to what extent Switzerland
will hand over bank client data to U.S. tax officials.
The United States and other nations, faced with soaring
government deficits, are cracking down on offshore tax dodgers.
A focus of this effort has been Switzerland and its long
tradition of bank secrecy, which is slowly being eroded.
The Swiss commission's backing is not binding on lawmakers,
but it indicates that parliament will approve the proposal. It
also indicates that both houses of parliament will address it
before year-end, as the Swiss government had hoped.
The proposal represents a Swiss government attempt to seal
potential legal loopholes and avoid a lengthy court fight by
Swiss bank clients seeking to protect their identities, while
it also has implications for an ongoing U.S. probe into banks.
A deal over UBS data reached by the Swiss
government in 2009 was later upended by Swiss court, forcing
the government to turn to parliament to push the deal through.
Basler Kantonalbank , Credit Suisse and
Julius Baer are among 11 Swiss banks under
investigation in connection with allegations they helped
Americans dodge taxes.
The Swiss government has been in talks with U.S.
authorities for months to seek a deal to get investigations
dropped in return for payment of fines and the transfer of
names of clients suspected of tax evasion.
The U.S. clinched a key victory in its crackdown on
offshore centers in 2009, reaching a deal with Swiss
authorities for UBS to pay a fine of $780 million and
reveal details of around 4,450 clients, averting criminal
TWO UBS CLIENTS SENTENCED
Two U.S. men who each hid millions of dollars in UBS
accounts were sentenced separately on Wednesday, the U.S.
Justice Department said.
A Manhattan federal judge sentenced Richard Werdiger, 64,
to a year and a day in prison for failing to disclose $7.1
million in assets and for not paying $400,000 in taxes. He
agreed to pay a civil penalty of $3.8 million.
A federal judge in San Francisco sentenced Robert Greeley,
79, to six months home confinement and three years probation
for failing to disclose $12 million in UBS accounts and for not
paying $17,000 in taxes. Prosecutors recommended a prison
sentence of 10 months, but Greeley's lawyer asked for probation
because of his client's age and the $6.8 million civil penalty
he already paid.
Greeley and Werdiger each pleaded guilty.
Specifics of the latest Swiss proposal include obliging
Switzerland to hand over client data in some cases, even if a
foreign tax authority cannot identify an alleged tax offender
by name or bank account. That would depart from past practice.
A notable example involves clients with offshore vehicles
outside the United States and Switzerland, if evidence shows a
Swiss bank or its staff lent considerable assistance in setting
up the vehicles.