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US offers Switzerland tax row deal: report

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11:55 CET+01:00

American authorities have said they will lift the threat of criminal proceedings against eleven Swiss banks if they agree to reveal full details about their US offshore businesses, newspaper SonntagsZeitung reports.

The United States is offering Switzerland an end to marathon tax evasion negotiations with the country’s banks in the form of a deal similar to the one it signed with UBS in 2009, the newspaper said.

Each of the 11 banks would be offered an individual deal in exchange for satisfying US requests for administrative assistance in tax evasion cases.

This would entail the banks paying a fine as well as providing Washington with extensive information about their US offshore business, including the names of the bankers involved in the operations. In exchange, the US would agree not to take criminal action against any individuals.

The deal would require the banks to hand over details of their correspondence with American clients.

These details would include: notes from telephone conversations and meetings; internal notes about US clients from the relevant business units; correspondence between banks and third parties, such as independent wealth managers; all documents dealing with the US business model and US funds transferred to third parties.

However, according to the newspaper, which cited an unnamed source, the names of American clients would remain anonymous.

The alleged agreement resembles a deal signed in 2009 by UBS to end a conflict with the American authorities after it was discovered that the Swiss bank had helped US clients to hide their assets from US tax authorities.  

At the time, the Swiss parliament was forced to approve a deal to allow UBS to reveal details of around 4,450 American clients and pay a $780 million fine (913 million francs at the time). A refusal to comply would likely have jeopardized the future of the country's biggest bank.

Swiss banks will have little time to consider the ramifications of the deal since they will be required to make a decision by Tuesday, the newspaper said. If they give their consent, Credit Suisse, Basler Kantonalbank and HSBC Switzerland will have to hand over the relevant information before the end of the year.

The Sunday paper said the banks are expected to accept the deal since American authorities already have all the information they need to start criminal proceedings against them.

Neither the banks nor Swiss authorities contacted by SonntagsZeitung would confirm that a deal was imminent.

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