A new effort to tighten Swiss banking secrecy laws has received a lot of attention in the Indian media. It is being perceived as another obstacle in the country’s attempts to glean information on undeclared funds allegedly stashed by Indians in Swiss bank accounts.
On Wednesday, the Swiss cabinet supported a proposal to strengthen existing professional secrecy laws relating to stolen account data. Profiting from stolen banking information could become a punishable offence in Switzerland in the near future.
The Hindustan Timesexternal link referred to the measure as a fresh setback for India:
The Economic Timesexternal link pointed out that the proposal could hamper India's efforts to get access to the stolen HSBC list:
India has been looking into 782 names taken from a list of HSBC bank clients given to foreign authorities by former bank employee, Hervé Falciani, who worked at the bank’s Geneva branch. Swiss authorities refuse to provide assistance on the basis of stolen data.
Scope of legal changes
The proposed bill is targeted at those profiting financially from stolen banking data even if they haven’t necessarily handed over data to a third party. The aim is to create a deterrent by increasing the maximum penalty to five years imprisonment for those who breach it.
Under current law, violation of professional secrecy carries a prison term of up to three years. However, this law is only applicable to those who steal banking data and not those who come into possession of the information and use it for financial gain.
The Swiss government said in a statement that the new law would safeguard the rights of clients and improve overall confidence in the Swiss financial sector. Parliament will debate the bill in its autumn session.
swissinfo.ch and agencies