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Banking secrecy losing "sacred" status among Swiss public

Banking secrecy graphic: Sept 2000 swissinfo.ch

The Swiss public is becoming increasingly uneasy about the country's controversial banking secrecy laws, according to new studies.

This content was published on September 14, 2000 - 11:44

Two surveys show that most Swiss favour at least a partial removal of bank customers' right to confidentiality.

The studies, conducted one week apart, recorded conflicting views about the extent of public support for banking secrecy. However, both suggested that a majority of Swiss believe the right to banking secrecy should be withheld from certain customers.

The latest survey, published on Thursday by the Swiss Bankers Association, showed that four-fifths of the Swiss were in favour of banking secrecy, but believed it should not apply in cases where money laundering is suspected or where plundered assets might be involved.

The government has already imposed rules on "suspicious transactions", obliging banks to verify the identities of their customers and reject deposits of dubious origin.

Switzerland has also frozen $670 million in response to Nigeria's search for funds stashed abroad by the former Abacha regime, which is accused of plundering the state coffers to the tune of billions of dollars.

An earlier survey, published a week ago by the business newspaper, Cash, showed that 60 per cent of the Swiss public was in favour of abolishing banking secrecy in cases of tax fraud.

The study also found that 80 per cent wanted Switzerland to cooperate with other countries investigating cases of tax evasion.

The findings are in direct contrast to the Swiss government's stated position that banking secrecy enjoys widespread public support. Indeed, they suggest the Swiss might be more sympathetic to the views of the European Union than those of their own government.

Europe has been putting increasing pressure on Switzerland to share information about EU citizens with Swiss bank accounts, who are suspected of tax fraud.

The finance minister, Kaspar Villiger, has ruled this out, repeatedly arguing that banking secrecy is "non-negotiable".

swissinfo with agencies

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