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Right-wingers aim to keep Swiss bank secrecy
Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf: her tax evasion proposals face opposition. Photo: Federal Chancellery

Right-wingers aim to keep Swiss bank secrecy

Malcolm Curtis · 4 Jun 2013, 10:08

Published: 04 Jun 2013 10:08 GMT+02:00

A committee, supported by elected members of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), the Liberals, the Christian Democrats and the Ticino League (Lega), have until December 4th 2014 to collect 100,000 signatures to put the proposal to a national vote.

The bid was revealed on Tuesday in the federal gazette.

The text of the proposal calls for the continued protection of the private sphere, particularly with regards to financial information.

It is opposed to a planned change to Swiss tax law, introduced by Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf last Thursday, which aims to better track tax evasion in the country.

A consultation period on the policies proposed by Widmer-Schlumpf ends in September.

The right-wing initiative also surfaces as parliamentarians in Bern are grappling with a deal made by the Swiss federal cabinet with the US government.

This would force Swiss banks to pay American authorities in order to win legal closure over tax evasion cases involving US citizens.

The amount of the penalties has not been disclosed but some newspaper reports have put the figure as high as ten billion francs ($10.5 billion).

A dozen of the country’s largest banks are expected to make individual deals with the US but any disclosure of confidential client information would require an amendment to Swiss law.

The SVP in particular has been critical of the federal government’s desire to better control tax evasion in Switzerland.

“In the future, every citizen will be considered like a potential criminal,” the party said in a statement issued last week.

Christophe Darbellay, chairman of the Christian Democrats, is also opposed to the proposed changes.

“It’s a clear attack on banking secrecy,” Darbellay said according to a report from the ATS news agency.

“There is nor real need to change the law so fundamentally.”

Left-wing parties, such as the Socialists, say it is about time tax evasion was treated as seriously in Switzerland as tax fraud.

The cantons also support the federal government’s right to give them the authority to have access to bank account data, which is currently denied to them.

Under the proposed initiative, information about the accounts of people living in Switzerland could only be transmitted in the context of criminal cases.

Malcolm Curtis (news@thelocal.ch)

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