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Swiss upper house approves five bank data deals

* Agreements with U.S., France, UK, Denmark, Mexico approved

*Double tax deals do not apply in cases of stolen data

ZURICH, March 17 (Reuters) - The Swiss parliament’s upper house on Wednesday approved deals with the United States and four other countries to share data on potential tax dodgers, bringing the Alpine state closer in line with international standards.

Under the deals Switzerland will have banking data sharing arrangements with France, Britain, the United States, Denmark and Mexico in cases of tax fraud and tax evasion, in accordance with OECD standards, except when those requests are based on stolen data.

Under pressure from the G20, Switzerland, the world’s biggest offshore banking centre, agreed a year ago to relax its prized bank secrecy and agreed for the first time to share certain bank client data with other jurisdictions, once bilateral tax treaties are ratified.

Switzerland’s relations with both France and Germany have been strained in recent months after both countries obtained stolen information on possible tax dodgers with Swiss bank accounts.

“We won’t give administrative assistance if stolen data is presented. That’s our sovereign right,” finance minister Hans-Rudolf Merz told television show Classe Politique.

“France has stolen data,” he said. “If we get a request for administrative assistance from France, we’re not honouring it.”

All five agreements have been signed bilaterally but still have to be passed by parliament’s lower house, where the right-wing SVP, which has said it opposes them, has the most seats. [ID:nLDE6282GJ]

The government has already said it could put a tax agreement up for a referendum.

Switzerland had to sign 12 bilateral deals to be removed from an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “grey list” of tax havens.

France obtained data on some clients of HSBC HSBA.L's private bank in Geneva, while the German government has said it would pay for a CD of stolen Swiss bank data believed to be rich in detail about undeclared holdings.[ID:nLDE61P1FN] [ID:nLDE62A0KJ]

Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton

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