Swiss minister to meet Clinton ahead of UBS deadline

ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss foreign minister is due to meet U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on July 31, just days before a deadline to reach a settlement in a damaging U.S. tax case against UBS UBSN.VXUBS.N.

Micheline Calmy-Rey told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper in an interview she would probably meet Clinton on July 31, adding she hoped that strong Swiss ties with the United States should help seal a deal for UBS soon.

“UBS employs more people in the United States than in Switzerland. Given these interests of the United States, I hope that a solution will be possible soon,” she told the paper.

“Our relations are very good. That is also useful in the case of UBS,” she said, pointing to Switzerland’s recent mediation in the Turkish-Armenia conflict and its representation of U.S. interests in Cuba and Iran.

A foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that a meeting between Calmy-Rey and Clinton was planned for July 31 and said it would focus on “current bilateral topics and international cooperation.”

A U.S. judge agreed earlier this month to delay a trial against top Swiss bank UBS to August 3 to allow the two governments to hammer out a settlement.

U.S. tax officials have accused UBS of hiding $20 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money in secret Swiss accounts and are seeking disclosure of 52,000 client names.

The Swiss government has threatened to seize UBS client data if necessary to stop the bank handing them over in breach of strict bank secrecy laws, but the Department of Justice has said any settlement must include the bank providing data on a significant number of its U.S. clients.

“For us this is not primarily about UBS. It is about Switzerland’s sovereignty. We want our laws to be respected. It is also about our financial center and about jobs,” Calmy-Rey said. “A solution in the UBS case must fall within Swiss law.”

The Sonntagsblick newspaper cited former U.S. federal prosecutor Peter Hardy as saying the Internal Revenue Service would see it as a failure if it received less than 10,000 client names.

However, the paper also quoted John Coffee, law professor from Columbia University, as saying UBS will probably only have to hand over about 2,500 names, adding the U.S. government was only interested in the biggest tax cheats.

Earlier this year, the bank agreed to pay $780 million and to disclose around 250 U.S. client names when it settled a separate, but linked, criminal case in the United States.

UBS, which employs 27,000 people in the United States and manages more than $600 billion at its Wealth Management Americas division, is struggling to recover from the subprime crisis. It is due to report second-quarter results on August 4.

Editing by Alex Richardson