Switzerland and Germany are heading for a showdown after the German Finance Minister cast doubt on Berne’s commitment to dealing with banking secrecy.
The German ambassador has been summoned to the Swiss foreign ministry in Berne. It comes after Peer Steinbrück suggested Switzerland and Austria might not be fully committed to applying OECD transparency rules: “All they need to know is that an OECD blacklist exists. If that makes people nervous and they ask themselves if they are likely to end up on that list well, then things start moving.” he said in an interview. Swiss officials described Steinbruck’s remarks as unacceptable. President Hans-Rudolf Merz: “For all those taxpayers who are Swiss residents, the banking protection will remain in place. No one can stick their nose into our bank accounts. However, banking secrecy laws cannot be used to cover up fraud.” Pressure from the G20 last week prompted promises of transparency from several countries, including Switzerland, Austria and Liechtenstein. Switzerland in particular has been in the spotlight since US officials demanded its biggest bank, UBS, hand over the name of 52,000 clients suspected of tax fraud. The Swiss government has hired a team of American lawyers to defend its position.