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Switzerland, US On Brink Of Banking Secrecy Deal


Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has confirmed that the Confederation is close to brokering a deal with the US, aimed at resolving the longstanding tax dispute between the two countries, and finding an "acceptable" solution to deal with the issue of US taxpayers' undeclared income already held in Swiss banks.

Switzerland has for years sought to end relentless and damaging US investigations into major Swiss banks. The US authorities have aggressively pursued Swiss institutions and their employees for complicity in tax evasion and for having deprived the US Treasury of billions of dollars in lost tax revenues.

Although the US and Switzerland recently concluded an Intergovernmental Agreement to facilitate compliance with the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), which provides a solution for the future, both countries have been at pains to resolve the issue of past income.

While underlining the importance of finding a solution, Swiss Finance Minister Widmer-Schlumpf made clear that the banks will not "get that for free." The Minister refrained from giving precise details of the penalties and fines that might be imposed on the country's financial institutions under the new deal.

Widmer-Schlumpf emphasized that it will not be a pleasant solution, but will be a legally correct resolution. The accord is not designed to rescue the banks, but is intended to draw a line under the past, she stressed.

Details of the accord are due to be presented shortly.