Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria have become the latest countries to loosen their bank secrecy rules.
Switzerland said it had no wish to appear on a black list of tax havens But the Swiss say they are not abandoning banking secrecy altogether. At a press conference in Berne it was emphasised confidentiality would only be waived where there is concrete evidence of fraud. Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said this was not a new open door policy. He said:” The Swiss Federal Council disapproves strongly of an automatic exchange of information. The privacy of clients will still be protected in the future.” The traditional tax havens have been under pressure to relax secret banking as The United States and Europe seek to claw back as much tax as possible in the face of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. Switzerland, Austria and Luxembourg have now joined Liechtenstien and Andorra which have said they will now co-operate with foreign tax investigators in certain cases. In other moves towards greater banking transparency in Europe, Austria says it will join with Germany to help fight tax fraud. Like Switzerland Austria says it will co operate where there is clear evidence of evasion. Observers say the “devil is in the detail” about how far the traditional tax havens are prepared to go in supplying information about customers bank accounts. All this comes as European leaders say they plan a crackdown as they prepare for the up coming G20 summit in London.