December 11, 2013 / 6:51 AM / 6 years ago

Bank Coop says will participate in U.S. tax probe

A Union Jack is reflected in a window of a branch of the Co-operative Bank in the City of London November 4, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

ZURICH (Reuters) - Bank Coop BC.S on Wednesday became the latest Swiss bank to say it would work with U.S. officials in a crackdown on wealthy Americans evading taxes through hidden offshore accounts.

The Basel-based bank said it had decided to participate in the scheme - brokered by the Swiss and U.S. governments in August - to make amends for aiding tax evasion, as staying out of the program was too risky.

The deal between the United States and Switzerland is part of a U.S. drive to lift the veil on Swiss bank secrecy. Banks had until Monday to inform the Swiss regulator whether they would take part in the scheme.

The program, which lapses at year-end, requires banks to hand out some previously hidden information and face penalties of up to 50 percent of assets they managed on behalf of wealthy Americans. If the banks shun the U.S. offer, individual firms and senior staff risk criminal prosecution.

Bank Coop, which is majority-owned by Basler Kantonalbank (BSKP.S), said it had only a few customers who were based in the United States and whose assets amounted to less than 0.3 percent of its clients’ assets under management.

It has made a provision of 9 million Swiss francs to cover the expected costs of taking part in the U.S. program, as well as any possible fine.

Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by David Holmes

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