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Tax evasion

Cabinet plans to clarify stolen data question

The Swiss cabinet plans on addressing the issue of stolen data with regard to banking information requests from other countries. This comes as Switzerland is under close scrutiny for compliance with international standards.

In its meeting on Wednesday, the cabinet discussed the thorny issue of stolen data. Switzerland currently does not entertain requests for banking information based on stolen data, like the HSBC list obtained from former HSBC Geneva bank employee, Hervé Falciani.

“The treatment of requests based on stolen data is particularly challenging for Switzerland,” said a government statement.

It also said that the cabinet “will propose a clarification of the legal situation to Parliament”.

Switzerland receives an average of 1,500 requests for information every year, according to the statement and is “one of the world's most frequently contacted countries for administrative assistance”.

Testing times

The cabinet’s move comes at a time when Switzerland is under intense scrutiny to respond to requests for information.  Switzerland was upgraded to Phase 2 of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) tax transparency review process this March, thanks to its efforts in complying with international tax data sharing standards. It was a major victory for the country that has been working hard to shed its tax haven image.

It now faces the challenging task of scraping through Phase 2, where it will assessed on its ability and willingness to respond to requests for tax information from other countries. Beginning the latter half of this year, a Peer Review Group comprising 30 countries will evaluate Switzerland’s performance over several months.

Refusal to entertain requests, even when they are based on stolen data, could potentially cost the Swiss their chance to clear Phase 2 and meet the OECD’s global standard on tackling tax evasion. Its neighbour Luxembourg failed its Phase 2 assessment in 2013 and one of the reasons given was its refusal to exchange information in cases where stolen data was involved.



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