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Tax deal with US “needs more time”

A solution to the tax dispute between Bern and Washington needs more time, but negotiations “have made solid progress”, according to the Swiss finance minister.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told Swiss radio on Saturday that the cornerstone of an agreement had been negotiated, but several more meetings would be necessary.

Widmer-Schlumpf, who assumes the rotating presidency for 2012, didn’t want to discuss any details, such as payments by the banks involved.

But Switzerland would ensure, she added, that “the banks, which are affected, are held responsible”.

Earlier in the month, newspapers reported that 11 Swiss banks must hand over thousands of client names and pay billions in fines to avoid tax evasion prosecution in the United States.

The Swiss authorities had hoped to negotiate a catch-all civil settlement that included all Swiss banks. But those hopes appear to have been dashed by the Department of Justice’s determination to pursue criminal probes into the 11 worst offenders.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR