Swiss nationals fear for the reputation of their country in the aftermath of the global downturn.
The UBS tax evasion issue in the United States has tarnished the nation’s image according to ex-pats living abroad, many of whom are experiencing difficulties with finances. Vidal Benchimol, a Swiss living in Paris said: “The image of Switzerland has changed a lot in the last months because of the influence of the media and what they said about the role of Switzerland concerning tax evasion and off-shore societies.” The Union Bank of Switzerland still faces legal action in America where the Federal Reserve is demanding the confidential details of 52,000 account holders in an effort to winkle out tax evaders. In Europe too, the German Finance Minister Peer Steinbruck has railed against Swiss banks, accusing them of denying his country much-needed tax revenue . Banking has become a nightmare for ordinary account holders. Peter Fuchs, a Swiss who lives in Florida said: “UBS told me that I must have at least a quarter- million Swiss Francs so that I could keep my account. They said that to me, who’s had an account since I was a child.” As the fall-out from the financial crisis looks set to continue for some time, it seems the Swiss gnomes still have a mountain to climb before their reputation for discretion can be fully restored.