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Switzerland defends bank secrecy

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Switzerland defends bank secrecy

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The secretive world of Swiss banking says it will co-operate with international regulators, but insists its traditional closed-mouth policy will continue. Switzerland’s UBS bank has agreed to disclose details of some of its American clients to avoid charges of supporting tax fraud. But the industry may yet be blacklisted when the world’s top economies meet in London next month.

“To be on a blacklist isn’t good for anybody, not for the financial centre, not for the banking industry and certainly not for the economy or the country,” said Finance Minister and current Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz. Pressure is building on Swiss banking. Washington has demanded details of some 50,000 US citizens who hold Swiss bank accounts, and who may by avoiding tax. “I would hope that the government changes its strategy and moves from a passive to an active role to let Switzerland, like Austria, Luxembourg and England work without secrecy which only protects the thieves of this world,” said Swiss Socialist leader Christian Levrat. Tomorrow, Swiss banking chiefs meet their counterparts from Austria and Luxembourg to discuss how they can be more open and yet uphold their careful image. Worldwide dissatisfaction with banks threatens thousands of jobs: UBS alone employs around 30,000 people in the United States.