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Swiss bank workers to appeal US data transfer

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Swiss bank workers to appeal US data transfer
Photo: Beat Strasser
11:46 CEST+02:00
A lawyer is vowing to appeal a federal decision not to pursue a complaint filed by Swiss employees of HSBC against the bank over its transfer to the US of documents naming them in suspected tax evasion cases.

Legal representative Douglas Hornung said he would take the case to the federal criminal court on behalf of the workers, Le Matin newspaper reported on Wednesday.

Erwin Beyeler, the federal prosecutor, decided this week to shelve a criminal complaint laid on June 8th against the Geneva branch of HSBC, the federal government and the directors of FINMA, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority.

HSBC and ten other Swiss banks that transferred information, including the names of employees, to American tax authorities were acting within their rights, according to a statement issued by the prosecutor on Monday.

The federal cabinet authorized the transfer of such data to the American department of justice on April 4th, Beyeler said.

The data involved information relating to cross-border banking activities with US citizens.

The cabinet made an exception to article 271 of the penal code governing acts contrary to the law committed by a foreign country.

But Hornung said while the federal prosecutor maintains the federal government has absolved the banks for their actions, he did not address the protection of information and privacy granted under Swiss law.

The lawyer also told Le Matin that the transfer of data goes beyond the rules of Swiss law regarding the provision of judicial assistance to foreign countries in civil and criminal cases.

“We have ten days to take this case before the federal criminal court in Bellinzona (Ticino) and we are going to do it,” Hornung said.

Separately, a total of five related civil complaints have been filed by bank employees against HSBC and Credit Suisse in Geneva and Zurich courts.

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