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Swiss bankers seek to boost image in Paris

Swiss banks are coming under increasing pressure to relax their banking secrecy laws

(Keystone Archive)

A delegation of Swiss bankers was in Paris on Monday for talks with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The Swiss delegation, led by the director of the Swiss Bankers Association, Urs Roth, also met officials at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an independent body set up to monitor money laundering and global financial terrorism.

"We're trying to correct any misunderstandings or myths about Switzerland as financial centre," James Nason, spokesman for the Swiss Bankers Association, told swissinfo.

The meeting came at a time when Switzerland was coming under increasing pressure from the OECD to relax its banking secrecy laws in order to reduce harmful tax competition, Nason said.

Similarly, the European Union was also trying to involve Swiss banks in a scheme to introduce laws allowing for the exchange of information on the savings income of EU citizens.

Under Switzerland's banking secrecy laws, exchange of information is a punishable offence and tax evasion is not considered a criminal act.

"It's almost like a two-pronged attack on Switzerland [...]. If you're cynical, you could say it's the high taxed nations of the world ganging up to smash the fiscal sovereignty of low taxed nations," Nason said.

Nason said the attack on Swiss banking secrecy laws was especially unfair given the fact that Switzerland offered its full judicial assistance in crimes that were punishable under Swiss legislation, such as tax fraud.

Switzerland, a founding member of the FATF, was one of the higher-ranking countries when it came to implementing the organisation's 40 recommendations designed to fight money laundering, he said.

Nason added that Switzerland had also implemented the majority of the international standards set by the FATF to combat global financial terrorism, which were drawn up last year following the terrorist attacks of September 11.


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