Switzerland’s highest court has ruled against the transfer of details of third parties such as bank employees or solicitors in cases of information handovers involving tax dodgers.
Wednesday’s ruling by the Federal Court upheld an earlier decision in a case brought by a US expat in Switzerland who disputed the transfer of details gleaned from his bank by the Swiss Federal Tax Administration (FTA).
The details of third-party individuals are not relevant to the case, the court said. It is vital to establish concretely which documents are necessary to send, and to avoid transferring information that might harm those innocent to the fraud.
The FTA did not provide a convincing argument that the information was indispensable for building the case against the evader, the court found.
Furthermore, it said, even if the third parties were involved in the infraction, specific details about their identities should still not be requested through this channel, which involves administrative assistance and not a case of prosecution.
Since a spate of cases in which the US took Swiss banks to court to reveal details of tax evaders, old Swiss practices of banking secrecy have been steadily eroding.
Various agreements on the automatic exchange of information, under the auspices of the OECD, have committed Swiss banks to releasing details of foreign clients upon request.
Despite Wednesday’s ruling, employees and managers of Swiss banks involved in helping foreign tax avoiders have also not been immune to prosecution.
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