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Swiss banks defend themselves in Berlin

A top Swiss banker has criticised a "unilateral" German tax evasion proposal in his testimony to a parliamentary finance committee in Berlin on Wednesday.

Urs Phillip Roth, head of the Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), told the committee that there would be serious consequences for the economies of both countries if Germany went ahead with the legislation proposed by Peer Steinbrück, Germany’s finance minister.

Roth said if the legislation were to be passed it would be like “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

Steinbrück’s tough stance over so-called tax havens, which the finance committee is now discussing, has been controversial inside Germany too.

The head of the parliamentary group of Steinbrück’s Social Democratic Party told German radio that “tax evaders must no longer be able to hide behind a letterbox or a straw man”.

However, a spokesman for Germany’s Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union parliamentary bloc, the country’s largest, has said the legislation will hurt companies that operate in Switzerland and that it will harm the German economy.

“The use of taxpayers as pawns against uncooperative countries – as recommended in the [German] 13 January 2009 draft of an anti-tax evasion law – should be rejected,” the SBA said in a statement.

“The German government could combat tax evasion and tax fraud much more effectively by making full use of the actual and potential scope of double taxation agreements.”

swissinfo with agencies

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR