ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland does not need an emergency law or a separate treaty as it works toward a solution in its latest tax spat with the United States, finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was quoted as saying in a Swiss newspaper interview on Sunday.
“The fact is that we are working with a lot of commitment for a solution that Switzerland can deliver within the existing legal framework of administrative assistance in the case of tax fraud and tax evasion,” Widmer-Sclumpf told NZZ am Sonntag.
“This is happening in accordance with the government and in conjunction with the involved banks. There is no need for an emergency law or a separate treaty,” Widmer-Schlumpf said.
The United States has been pushing for Switzerland to hand over bank client names who may have dodged taxes, as happened last year when Switzerland allowed UBS UBSN.VX to bend bank secrecy and reveal details of around 4,450 clients to avoid criminal charges.
Credit Suisse CSGN.VX is the target of a formal U.S. investigation. U.S. authorities are also looking into whether HSBC (HSBA.L) and smaller Swiss private banks and cantonal banks, including Basler Kantonalbank, Wegelin and Julius Baer BAER.VX helped wealthy Americans evade taxes.
Swiss media reported over the weekend that U.S. authorities now have statistical data from the 10 Swiss banks being investigated. In an interview with NZZ am Sonntag, Credit Suisse chairman Urs Rohner said it had handed over statistical data.
Switzerland recently revised its double-tax agreement with the United States and Widmer-Schlumpf said it would use this as a basis to deal with requests for information on specific cases from the United States.
“And we are also prepared, as we did in the UBS case, to use a taskforce, which will allow us to take care of these requests quickly,” she said.
Widmer-Schlumpf, who will be in Washington for the annual meeting of International Monetary Fund later this month, said she was shocked former UBS employees had simply moved with their clients to other banks to carry on helping them evading tax.
She said Switzerland’s financial markets regulator FINMA may have to be strengthened.
Rohner said Credit Suisse had not taken on any clients who had left UBS after 2008. He also said Credit Suisse had tightened its cross-border business regulations from 2005.
Credit Suisse’s American offshore business accounted for 0.5 percent of revenue in private banking, Rohner said.
Reporting by Katie Reid; Editing by Dan Lalor