Switzerland’s private banks have started to ban their top executives from travelling abroad, even to neighbouring France and Germany, because of fears they will be detained as part of a global crackdown on bank secrecy.
The head of one leading private bank in Geneva said the growing determination of countries such as the US and Germany to tackle tax evasion and secrecy meant banks felt they had to take extra measures to protect employees.
“Some banks have taken this precaution,” he said. “If today I go to Germany to visit two banks I deal with…German customs can take me in and question me.”
The travel bans, which have not been brought in by all banks, have focused on those visiting the US, following the detention there last year of a senior private banker from UBS, Switzerland’s biggest bank, as part of a federal tax investigation.
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The head of the private bank, which itself has no travel restrictions, said: “Today if you are a banker from Switzerland going to the US you have to fear you will be taken in for questioning. I am thinking twice about going to America.”
However, four people in the private banking industry in Geneva told the Financial Times of banks bringing in total travel bans for staff, even for adjoining European countries.