Thursday, Sept 24th, 2009
European leaders should give up the attack on Swiss banking secrecy and accept a withholding tax on foreigners to avoid criminalizing wealthy taxpayers, said Konrad Hummler, managing partner of Switzerland’s oldest private bank.
“If there is really a desire to criminalize part of the elite in European countries, then it would be a bigger problem for these countries than for Switzerland,” Konrad Hummler said in an interview at the offices of Wegelin & Co. in Zurich. The “majority of European clients were not criminals but just diversifying away from their home country.”
Swiss banks last week proposed the withholding tax in a bid to fend off the assault on secrecy by the U.S., Germany and France. The Swiss Bankers Association has forwarded the proposal, under which client identities would be known only to the banks, to the government for consideration.
A withholding tax may prevent probes of the kind that netted former Deutsche Post AG Chief Executive Officer Klaus Zumwinkel, who confessed in January to using a Liechtenstein account to avoid taxes, Hummler said. That came after the German government paid a former employee of LGT Group, the bank owned by Liechtenstein’s ruling family, for bank records.