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Government under fire from all sides

The Swiss government came under further attack on Saturday over its handling of bank secrecy in the wake of a dispute with Germany over the theft of customer data.

Gerold Bührer, the head of the Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse), told German-language Swiss radio that remarks made by Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz were “unfortunate and unhelpful”.

Merz had said that it was worth considering an automatic exchange of information with tax authorities abroad.

Bührer said Switzerland had already taken a major step by removing its traditional distinction between tax evasion and tax fraud. Automatic exchange of information would damage Switzerland as a state based on the rule of law, and as a financial centre.

On the other hand, the Green party has come out strongly in favour of the automatic exchange of information.

It issued a statement on Saturday describing the government as a “rudderless ship”, and saying it had a duty to defend the public interest, not that of the big banks who were endangering Switzerland’s position as a financial centre.

It called for a law to be drawn up to enshrine the removal of the distinction between evasion and fraud and another to provide for the exchange of information.

Last weekend it became known that a whistleblower had offered to sell stolen Swiss bank account data to the tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A German newspaper reported on Saturday that the sale was likely to go ahead this weekend.

A second German state, Baden Württemberg, is now reported to have been offered similar data.

German parties and public are divided over whether they should buy stolen goods.

The Swiss president and economics minister, Doris Leuthard, told Swiss television she wanted to discuss the issue with Germany.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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