Swiss HSBC unit loses plea to block database

One of France's highest courts rejected a plea on Wednesday by a Swiss unit of HSBC bank that a French government database of citizens holding bank accounts abroad should be blocked as an excess of power.

In the decision, the Council of State said that the budget ministry in 2009 had the authority to create a database of possible tax evaders, known as Evafisc.  

The database, created in 2009 when popular anger against wealthy tax evaders was rife, is intended as a crime-fighting tool for tax authorities in their campaign to stamp out fraud and the siphoning off of funds to tax havens.  

The database is fed by tips from government agencies and banking establishments, who under certain conditions are required to share information with authorities on clients holding accounts abroad.  

“For the time being, we have no comment to make. We want to take the time to analyse the court’s decision,” a HSBC spokesman told AFP.  

The French budget ministry said the decision “justified the means used by the state to fight tax fraud”.  

Soon after the creation of Evafisc, it received information on some 79,000 customers identified from data stolen from HSBC bank in Geneva.  

French authorities in January 2009 had acted on a Swiss warrant and seized HSBC customer data from former computer specialist Herve Falciani’s home in France.  

The decryption of the stolen files had allowed for the identification of 127,000 accounts belonging to 79,000 people, officials said at the time.  

The use by French authorities of data stolen in Geneva provoked a sharp diplomatic row, but eventually helped fuel pressure on Switzerland over tax evasion.

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Switzerland and Italy hope to deliver cross-border worker tax deal ‘by 2021’

Switzerland and Italy have pledged to conclude a long-awaited tax arrangement for cross-border workers by the end of the year.

Switzerland and Italy hope to deliver cross-border worker tax deal ‘by 2021’

At a meeting in Rome between Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the two leaders said progress was being made on a cross-border tax arrangement. 

The agreement, originally negotiated in 2015, has as yet not been signed by either state. 

READ: How Switzerland avoided a coronavirus 'catastrophe' by protecting cross-border workers 

A 1974 agreement between the two countries doesn’t define cross-border worker. 

Sommaruga praised Switzerland’s decision to reject an initiative which would have restricted migration from EU countries and perhaps had impacts on cross-border workers. 

“In last Sunday's referendum, the Swiss people once again said that they want the free movement of people. It is a good thing for our country but it is also a good thing for the whole of Europe,” she said. 

“With neighbouring countries, Switzerland has adopted a regional approach excluding border regions and also cross-border workers from the quarantine regime. 

“I hope we can continue like this.”

While Switzerland rejected the migration limitation initiative, Ticino was one of four of Switzerland’s 26 cantons to vote in favour. 

Conte told reporters he hoped a deal was concluded “as soon as possible” and hoped it would be concluded by 2021. 

Conte hailed Italian cross-border workers as essential to the health system in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic. 

READ: How Switzerland's cross-border workers are growing in number 

In the canton of Ticino, one in five healthcare workers lives over the border in Italy – approximately 4,000 people. Ticino’s population swells from approximately 360,000 people to 440,000 during an average work day due to cross-border workers from Italy.

Unlike with Italy, Switzerland has struck a tax deal for cross-border workers from neighbouring France, which was amended during the coronavirus pandemic.