Swiss banks face no US tax issues: Swiss envoy

BERNE (Reuters) - Switzerland’s banks should not run into further trouble with the U.S. taxman now that a damaging dispute with UBS AG has been cleared up, Switzerland’s top tax diplomat, Michael Ambuehl, said on Friday.

Ambuehl was the chief Swiss government negotiator in the talks that led UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank by market value and the world’s No.2 wealth manager, to settle a bitter U.S. tax probe that nearly brought down the lender.

Asked at a news conference if other Swiss banks faced potential similar problems with U.S. authorities now the UBS ordeal was over, Ambuehl said: “There is no evidence of that.”

In order to avert a U.S. court case, Switzerland and UBS had to promise in August 2009 that they would disclose bank information about 4,450 U.S. holders of UBS accounts who were suspected of tax evasion.

The Swiss-U.S. deal over UBS, signed a year ago, broke Swiss law and Berne had to design a legal patch to bypass its own system that struggled to win Swiss parliament approval.

The UBS tax investigation and a global crackdown on tax havens put Switzerland, the world’s biggest offshore financial center, under international scrutiny and forced it to relax its bank secrecy rules last year.

At the height of the dispute, Switzerland was put on an international “grey list” of tax havens and had to compromise on its treasured bank privacy rules to be taken off the list.

Ambuehl, who is state secretary for international affairs in tax and financial issues, said the main goal was to ensure that Switzerland remained a stable and prosperous financial center in the face of many challenges.

“We want to stay competitive without being put on a black list every second week,” he said.

Editing by Simon Jessop and Michael Shields