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Bank chief refutes criticism of Swiss system

Georg Krayer said Swiss banks would not bow to pressure to relinquish banking secrecy Keystone

The Swiss Bankers Association has defended the country's banking system, and refuted claims that Switzerland is a tax haven, at a news conference in Berne.

This content was published on August 21, 2000 - 17:09

Speaking on Monday, the Bankers Association president, Georg Krayer, attacked critics of the Swiss banking system, and reaffirmed that Switzerland's secrecy laws are not up for negotiation.

He said the Swiss banking system had an "exemplary regulatory regime, equal to any in the world". And he rejected what he described as "the rebuke" meted out by the group of seven industrialised nations, which has categorised Switzerland as an "offshore financial centre".

"Switzerland is neither a tax haven nor is it unwilling to co-operate in the fight against money laundering."

Krayer denied Switzerland was trying to torpedo European Union plans to tighten up its tax system. But he reiterated that Swiss banking secrecy was non-negotiable.

He added that measures to penalise the country for non-compliance with EU tax rules would be unacceptable until banking centres such as Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong were made to comply as well.

The European Union wants so-called "tax havens" to disclose the identity and assets of EU citizens, who hold accounts in those countries.

Krayer also had strong words about a new tax regime being implemented by the United States. In essence, the US is trying to force overseas banks to disclose the identities of Americans with assets held abroad.

Krayer described the US move as a "bitter pill to swallow", but said lengthy negotiations had led to an arrangement, which did not compromise Swiss banking secrecy.

He said the banks had undertaken not to sell US securities to American taxpayers who do not want to have their identities disclosed to the US tax authorities.

This covers all US citizens as well as holders of so-called "green cards".

He added that, from January 2001, American taxpayers in possession of US securities, who do not want their identities disclosed, will have a 31 per cent security tax deducted from the dividends and capital gains of those securities.

swissinfo

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