ZURICH (Reuters) - A Swiss court declined on Friday to rule on an application by three U.S. clients of UBS to stop their details from being handed over to the United States in any deal with Switzerland over a U.S. tax probe into UBS.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that the U.S. Justice Department could drop the government’s case against UBS
to enforce an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) summons to identify its customers and could involve the Swiss government passing on details of UBS clients who had filed legal cases in Swiss courts contesting the U.S. summons.
Without citing its sources, the newspaper said this could get around strict Swiss bank secrecy laws as it would involve handing over court papers rather than private banking information.
The Swiss Federal Administrative Court said in a statement that it had passed on the application to the Swiss financial regulator FINMA and the Swiss tax authorities.
A FINMA spokesman said the regulator had received the application and was analyzing it, but declined to comment further.
The U.S. Justice Department earlier this week denied that it was planning to drop the case and said that next Tuesday, it would file a brief seeking an enforcement of the IRS summons, although it was still willing to consider a settlement.
UBS agreed to give a small number of client names and pay a fine of $780 million to end U.S. criminal fraud charges that it assisted rich Americans to evade taxes but U.S. tax authorities are pursing the civil lawsuit to get the details of 52,000 Americans suspected of dodging taxes by stashing billions in UBS accounts.
The three unnamed clients applied to the court for a ban on details of their legal cases in Switzerland being handed over to the IRS.
The court has received 18 complaints from UBS clients against a decision by FINMA earlier this year to allow the Swiss bank to identify some of its customers to settle the criminal fraud charges.
Switzerland and the United States announced last week they had reached agreement on a double taxation treaty.
Some analysts said the agreement increased the chances of a deal in the UBS case, although the United States was unlikely to settle early to keep the pressure on UBS clients to declare themselves voluntarily.
Reporting by Emma Thomasson; editing by Karen Foster