Swiss banks ask govt to reject mass-requests for banking info

Swiss banks ask govt to reject mass-requests for banking info

Swiss banks ask govt to reject mass-requests for banking info

Known for providing utmost secrecy to their customers and their assets, Swiss banks have also warned the Switzerland government against signing any automatic information exchange agreement with any foreign country.

Swiss banks, through their apex body Swiss Bankers Association (SBA), have told their government that any system of automatic information exchange and mass-requests for banking information must be resolutely rejected to safeguard the interests of Swiss financial centre in global banking system.

The views were expressed by the banks through an SBA statement to explain their position on the Swiss government's proposed relaxations to its banking information sharing norms.

Buckling under international pressure, Swiss government on February 15 announced that it would relax some norms for sharing information on secret bank accounts of overseas tax offenders by allowing varied modes of identification.

The move is expected to help India and other countries in their respective black money trails, as Swiss authority would accept various identity modes for sharing information, as against only name and addresses accepted currently.

Last week, Indian government also informed Parliament about Switzerland's proposed relaxation.

The Indian government is facing intense pressure from Opposition, as also the courts, to act tough against those who have amassed illicit wealth in foreign countries that have strict secrecy rules, such as Switzerland.

A treaty between India and Switzerland to pave way for authorities here to seek details of illicit wealth stashed away by Indians in Swiss banks is before the Swiss Parliament.

Reacting to their government's move, the Swiss banks said that the Switzerland government should ensure that "the proposed revisions must not make any substantial difference to administrative assistance procedures in practice."

"So-called fishing expeditions and also mass-requests for information must continue to be ruled out and administrative assistance must continue to be based on justified requests," SBA statement said.

SBA also said that "positive identification of an individual must continue to be the rule" to provide assistance to countries with taxation treaties with Switzerland.

"Within the context of the OECD the interests of the Swiss financial centre must be represented in a consistent and robust manner and any attempts to introduce a system of automatic information exchange must be resolutely rejected," SBA further said.

As per the existing practice, a foreign country having an information exchange-facilitating treaty with Switzerland can get help from the Swiss government after providing name and address of the suspected tax offender, as also those of the concerned bank.
As per the revision, other means of identification, such as bank account number, should also be admissible.

Switzerland decided to relax its norms after concerns were raised over its information sharing mechanism by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which sets international standards for tax information exchange agreements between various countries.

An OECD review report found Switzerland's requirements for administrative assistance to be too restrictive and possible hindrance to an effective exchange of information.

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