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UBS clients in US are not "harmless victims"

The chairman of Swiss bank UBS, Kaspar Villiger, says clients who face their account details being handed to United States tax authorities are not "harmless victims".

This content was published on August 23, 2009 - 17:17

In an interview with the SonntagsBlick newspaper, Villiger also commented that legal cases against former UBS bankers did not affect the bank.

"The clients are not just harmless victims. They knew what they wanted to evade. But they trusted the bank that it would work. Now we have to correct that."

Switzerland last week agreed to disclose to Washington the details of 4,450 accounts belonging to rich US clients suspected of hiding from US tax authorities.

An out-of-court deal settled what could have been a damaging and costly civil case against UBS

In a separate interview with the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper, Villiger said he did not believe systematic tax evasion had been a problem, adding that legal cases against former UBS staff did not affect the bank.

"The personnel consequences have been solved in so far as those responsible no longer work for UBS.

"That means we have no reason to take action against individual employees."

Villiger also said deliberate tax evasion should not be protected by Swiss banking secrecy but Swiss banks would face increased competition in future as a result of last week's accord.

"Swiss banks hid behind banking secrecy for years. The competition has intensified with the disappearance of the difference between tax fraud and tax evasion."

Under Swiss legislation, tax fraud is a criminal offence, whereas tax evasion is punishable only with a fine.

swissinfo.ch and agencies

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