Thursday, Dec 11, 2008
More than a decade after holocaust survivors won compensation from Swiss banks for emptying Jewish accounts that had lain dormant since the war, the pressure is on again to dismantle Swiss banking secrecy.
This time, the tax collector is leading the charge.
With Washington joining Germany to press for an end to a code they believe helps tax dodgers, many see it as only a matter of time before the Swiss lift the cloak guarding the secrets of the world’s wealthy.
“The challenge to bank secrecy is a thunderstorm which has been brewing since the holocaust money,” said Sebastian Dovey of consultancy Scorpio Partnership. “It is a hot potato and I don’t think the heat is going to be turned down.”
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Nearly one-third of wealth kept abroad globally is in Swiss banks: the Swiss Bankers Association and consultants estimate this at $2.2 trillion, making the Alpine state the globe’s biggest offshore centre ahead of Britain and Luxembourg.
But its code of secrecy — which local myth inaccurately claims was introduced to protect fleeing Jews — is as controversial as it is protective.