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Merz defends banking secrecy in UBS tax probe

Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz has urged the leading UBS bank not to breach Swiss banking secrecy rules by handing over client details.

This content was published on September 14, 2008 - 14:50

The bank is the subject of an investigation by United States authorities accused of helping wealthy Americans avoid taxes by hiding assets in Switzerland.

Merz told the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper that banking secrecy must be defended and those who undermine it would be acting illegally.

The US justice authorities were making far-reaching demands in the UBS case, but it would still to have established if they would affect banking secrecy, he added.

UBS has said it would stop offering offshore Swiss bank accounts to US residents, and is expected to seek a settlement in the tax evasion case.

Swiss banks have adopted the "know your customer" rule to avoid ill-gotten money, but tax evasion – as opposed to tax fraud - is not classified as a crime.

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