ZURICH Switzerland may cooperate with tax crackdowns by other countries even if requests for help are based on leaked Swiss bank data from paid informants, the government said on Wednesday.
However, it said such cooperation would only be provided to governments that had not bought stolen files directly nor ordered their theft.
Switzerland, under fire over banking secrecy, offshore accounts and tax evasion, has clashed repeatedly with Germany and other countries, which have bought stolen data to track down tax cheats. Until now, Switzerland has vowed not to provide legal aid in such cases.
Data leaks have become big business ever since 2008, when files leaked from Liechtenstein's LGT bank revealed that wealthy citizens including former Deutsche Post chief Klaus Zumwinkel had stashed money in hidden offshore accounts.
Switzerland has also vigorously pursued informants in criminal court over breaches of Swiss secrecy and privacy laws. They include former Geneva-based Reyl & Cie private banker Pierre Condamin-Gerbier, who remains in custody, and former HSBC Private Bank (HSBA.L) employee Herve Falciani, who Switzerland is seeking to extradite from Spain.
However, Switzerland appears to be softening its stance on helping states which buy files from data leakers.
"It is to be possible for future requests to be processed, provided that the requesting state acquired the data passively, such as via another state, and not actively," the Swiss government said in a statement on Wednesday.
Switzerland wants to refuse official help to states whose requests are based on information deriving from stolen data bought directly, or whose theft the countries may have directly ordered.
"Requests that are contrary to the principle of good faith will not be considered," the government said.
The government also proposed a delay to notifying Swiss bank clients being targeted by requests from other countries, a move meant to bring it in line with standards set out by Global Forum, an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) body that works to address the problems posed by tax havens.
The government sent the proposals into consultation, which lasts until September 18.
(Reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto and Katharina Bart)