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Half of Switzerland prepared to sacrifice holy cow of banking secrecy

Most of Switzerland's banks are based in Zurich, seen as the country's financial centre

(Keystone)

A survey shows that 48.5 per cent of Swiss people would like to get rid of banking secrecy. 38 per cent said it only benefits rich people and fraudsters.

The survey was conducted in the French-language Sunday newspaper, dimanche.ch. However it also showed four out of ten people wanted to keep banking secrecy, while 51 per cent said Switzerland's success as a financial centre was due to banking secrecy as opposed to the competence of Swiss banks.

Only nine per cent though considered it to be beneficial for the population as a whole.

The survey comes at the end of a week in which Switzerland came under pressure to abandon banking secrecy. Countries in the European Union hammered out a long-awaited deal on the harmonisation of tax legislation, in particular on capital gains tax.

The proposal, which will be ratified in two years' time, calls on member states to exchange information on non-resident bank accounts in order to combat tax evasion. It also calls on third parties, such as Switzerland and the United States as well as off-shore tax havens, to comply.

Some analysts say that if Switzerland is to join the EU eventually, it must be prepared to sacrifice banking secrecy. However, the finance ministry said it was not prepared to exchange confidential information, while the Bankers' Association said banking secrecy was not up for discussion.

swissinfo with agencies

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