Pictet joins list of banks investigated by US

Pictet's Geneva headquarters; are clouds gathering?

The Geneva-based private bank Pictet & Cie has confirmed that it is under investigation by the United States justice department as part of a probe into Swiss banks allegedly aiding wealthy US clients avoid tax.

This content was published on November 26, 2012 - 16:46 and agencies

The bank said in a statement that the department had made a “general inquiry” into its wealth management business. It added that it would cooperate fully with the US authorities.

"Pictet has made it a priority to ensure that its business with US clients complies with all the relevant laws and regulations governing its conduct," it said.

Pictet, Switzerland’s largest unlisted private bank, issued the statement in response to a report to the same effect in Der Sonntag newspaper.

Earlier this year Pictet denied that it was under investigation, although it handed over details of some specific accounts to the US authorities in November 2010.

The US Justice Department has launched an offensive against tax evasion, which has led it to investigate a number of Swiss banks and their offshore wealth management services.

The crackdown started with Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS, which led to the bank handing over client data and paying a fine to avoid prosecution.

Investigations have subsequently been extended to cover many other banks, including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer.

In a statement on Monday, Switzerland’s Secretariat for International Financial Matters, SIF, said it had “taken note” of Pictet’s confirmation of the investigation.

“There are various Swiss banks at various stages of investigation by the US justice authorities. It is therefore impossible to speak of a clearly defined list of Swiss banks involved. We are not communicating any details on this.”

“The tax questions that remain open from Swiss banks’ past business in the US show yet again the importance of finding a global settlement of these questions.”

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