Swiss banks would be authorized to settle their
long-standing tax evasion disputes with the US by sharing client
information with US authorities, under a draft law presented
Wednesday by the Swiss government.
If parliament passes the bill by July, as planned, it would end a quarrel centering on allegations that Swiss banks aided US tax evaders by helping them hide untaxed deposits abroad.
"The urgency is due to the fact that the United States is unprepared to wait any longer with settling past business of Swiss banks," the Swiss Finance Ministry said after two years of tough negotiations with Washington.
US authorities had turned up the pressure on around a dozen banks, including Credit Suisse and UBS, in recent years by starting investigations and by arresting bank managers.
Switzerland and the US agreed that banks will be able to avoid criminal prosecution by paying penalties and providing information to US authorities according to US law, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said.
Under the deal, Swiss banks will provide information about business relations with US citizens, as well as about employees involved in such business. Lenders are not allowed to pass on such information under current law.
Banks will not be able to renegotiate any terms of the bilateral deal once they choose to take the US offer and settle out of court.
Widmer-Schlumpf did not disclose the amount of the penalties and said that the US would provide relevant information only once the Swiss parliament passes the bill.
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