March 27, 2009

Tax moves ‘an economic war’ banker says

Swiss Bankers Association Chairman Pierre Mirabaud called international efforts to rein in tax evaders with foreign accounts an economic war.

We have been very successful and we are making many of our competitors jealous. So this is an angle to attack, an economic war to gain market share, Mirabaud told The Washington Times.

Swiss banks handle the largest share of offshore accounts, amounting to $2.42 trillion, or 27 percent of the global market, the Times said.

The Swiss government said this month it would use international guidelines regarding tax evasion but the Ministry of Finance also said Switzerland has no intention of relinquishing bank secrecy.

British and U.S. efforts to push Switzerland into compliance have resulted in distrust among Swiss people, the majority of whom agreed with the ministry's position, the Times said.

But Mirabaud agreed Swiss bank UBS had broken the law.

The bank agreed to pay $780 million in U.S. Justice Department fines after being accused of soliciting business from U.S. clients and advising them on how to hide their assets from tax authorities.