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Italy raids banks as Merz calls for discussion

Italian authorities raided Swiss banks and banks linked to Switzerland on Tuesday wikipedia/Adrian Pingstone

Police and tax authorities in Italy have raided dozens of branches of Swiss banks in the country's ongoing crackdown on tax evasion.

Around 100 financial police agents launched the offensive on Tuesday morning against 76 offices, including Italian branches of Swiss banks and Italian banks with Swiss links.

Authorities checked the offices “particularly at risk” in a first wave of visits to guarantee the “precise and punctual” reporting of financial transactions to Italian authorities.

“These banks operate in Italy and are under Italian supervision. We have nothing to say about it,” a finance ministry spokesman said after the raids.

James Nason, spokesman for the Swiss Bankers Association, said he found it strange that only Swiss banks were raided.

“My own personal hunch is that the Italian authorities are straining to make some sort of symbolic political statement. At the same time, we should not forget that Italians love drama.”

In an interview published on Tuesday in the Italian business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz said he wanted dialogue with Italy over tax.

Italy has launched a tax amnesty, its third in nine years, which it hopes will repatriate around €5 billion (SFr7.6 billion) hidden abroad.

The Swiss have complained about Italian police “spying” at the border. Italy says Switzerland encourages its citizens to evade taxes.

Authorities in Ticino, Switzerland’s Italian-speaking canton, have written to the Swiss government saying it is “very worried” about the impact of the crackdown. It has asked Merz, who is also finance minister, to intervene in Rome.

Around 70,000 Italian nationals live in Ticino. and agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR