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Swiss in favour of relaxing banking secrecy

Banking secrecy has been enshrined in Swiss law for seven decades

(Keystone Archive)

A majority of Swiss are in favour of making the country's banking secrecy laws more flexible according to a poll published on Sunday.

The survey, carried out for the "SonntagsBlick" by Isopublic, showed that only 28 per cent of those questioned were in favour of maintaining Switzerland's tradition of banking secrecy.

Some 53 per cent supported an easing of the regulations in cases that concerned tax evasion by foreigners resident abroad. Another 12 per cent said the laws should be abandoned altogether.

Of the 601 people polled, 55 per cent were in favour of the Swiss authorities investigating and prosecuting in cases of tax evasion by foreigners. Only 37 per cent supported the current policy of treating it as a misdemeanour.

Bank chief against relaxation

UBS's Marcel Ospel, has called on the government in Bern to protect Switzerland's banking secrecy laws. In an article in the "Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag", the chairman of the country's largest bank said the government should have the courage to break off negotiations with the European Union over the second round of bilateral agreements.

In an interview with the "SonntagsBlick, Ospel accused Brussels of only looking after its own economic interests.

"European financial centres regard Switzerland with respect and jealousy," he said. "It would, for example, be particularly attractive to a city like London to capture a part of our financial business."

EU negotiations

Switzerland has been under heavy pressure recently to relax its banking secrecy laws as part of its efforts to forge closer ties with the European Union. Brussels is demanding an end to bank customer confidentiality as part of a new bilateral agreement between the EU and Switzerland on combatting cross-border crime.

The EU wants to clamp down on tax evasion and is seeking access to its citizens' savings in Swiss banks so that it can tax them accordingly.

Banking secrecy has been enshrined in Swiss law for seven decades and has helped make the country the world's largest "offshore" banking centre.

swissinfo with agencies

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