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UBS shares plunge amid US probe into tax cheats

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UBS shares plunge amid US probe into tax cheats


Shares in UBS – Switzerland’s biggest bank – have plummeted after US authorities said they were widening a probe into suspected American tax cheats.

It comes a day after the banking giant took responsibility for helping some 250 US clients conceal assets from the US taxman and agreed to hand over their names to authorities. However, the Swiss government, which backed UBS’s move, is now refusing to deliver further names. The far-right party sees the move as a capitulation on the part of Switzerland: “It’s a disastrous message we’re sending out. And we’ll soon be paying the price, because people who still have money here and are afraid of being denounced will take it out,” said Yves Perrin, president of the UDC party. The Socialists blame the Federal Council and the world of finance, whom they accuse of refusing to discuss banking secrecy and its limits: “Today, because of them, we are at a dead end,” said their president, Christian Levrat. Some believe the UBS settlement will weaken the country’s banking secrecy rules and lawyers say it will have implications for other offshore accounts. But, according to the right-wing Radical Party’s Fulvio Pelli: “Banking secrecy depends on us. If we want that part of our financial system to remain in place, it will.” The Green Party has welcomed the concession, which it deems necessary: “Banking secrecy can no longer be used to protect immoral and sometimes even criminal activity,” said Green Party leader Ueli Leuenberger. UBS agreed on Wednesday to pay a multi-million euro fine to settle tax evasion charges brought by Washington. But US authorities now want thousands more names of citizens it says are hiding billions of dollars in assets in secret accounts.

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