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Senior Basel banker regrets taking US clients

The chairman of a Swiss regional bank has said he regrets taking on American clients after US authorities forced UBS to hand over the names of suspected tax offenders.

Andreas C. Albrecht of Basel Cantonal Bank told the Basler Zeitung newspaper that his bank opened accounts for thousands of UBS customers after the United States tax probe against the Zurich banking giant.

“It was mainly Swiss customers, but also a lot of foreigners, including of course Americans,” Albrecht said.

“Looking back, I have to say it would have been wiser to close the door sooner for Americans, who made up only a marginal share of our business,” he said, adding that the bank stopped accepting US-based clients in March 2009.

The US Justice Department last month named the Basel Cantonal Bank in an indictment against a Swiss banker accused of helping Americans move their money away from UBS.

A former UBS banker turned independent asset manager has been charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States by helping US customers “open and maintain secret bank accounts at a Swiss cantonal bank headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, with the assistance of a private banker at the bank,” the Justice Department said. The bank itself has not been charged with any offence.

Albrecht told the paper his bank never broke Swiss laws, but had worked on the assumption that some of its clients’ deposits had not been declared to tax authorities.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR