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Merz condemns attacks on banking secrecy

Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz has defended Switzerland's banking secrecy rules in the midst of a row over German tax evaders.

He described pressure from neighbouring countries as unacceptable and labelled comments by some of Switzerland’s harsher critics impertinent.

He denied the country was a tax haven, and added that authorities had been at the forefront in the fight against money laundering.

Switzerland has been gradually introducing a withholding tax on interest made in Swiss bank accounts belonging to European Union taxpayers.

He told parliament on Wednesday that Switzerland could not be held responsible for people who try to avoid higher tax rates in their own countries.

Merz said there were no indications that the German tax evasion investigation targeting accounts in Liechtenstein would have a direct impact on Switzerland.

He repeated that talks with Brussels on corporate taxes for EU holding companies must not be tied to the ongoing debate over banking secrecy.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR