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Swiss Banks Call Tax Evader Label Unfair


The Swiss Bankers Association has launched a blistering attack against the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development calling the OECD's treatment of Switzerland disgraceful. The bankers say the OECD's threat to put Switzerland on a blacklist of countries that allegedly shield tax evaders is unacceptable and seriously damages the OECD's credibility.

The President of the Swiss Bankers Association, Pierre Mirabaud, categorically denies that Switzerland is a tax haven. He says 99.9 percent of tax evaders do not have a bank account in Switzerland.

He says Switzerland is an easy target to attack because there is no political risk involved. He says the Swiss have no powerful lobby in the United States or the European Union that it can mobilize.

"As a banker I know what my clients are in my bank and I talk to a lot of bankers in Switzerland and I see what they are doing," said Mirabaud. "And, I can tell you that it is completely absurd to think that the Swiss private banking industry is based on tax evasion. This, I am sorry to say, is a very good story, but it is not the truth."

Swiss bank secrecy laws made neutral Switzerland a popular destination for capital during World War II, and for generations the confidentiality of bank customers has been a hallmark of the country's banking business.

Earlier this month, Switzerland agreed to ease its rules on banking secrecy. It said it would cooperate with other countries on cases of tax evasion and would no longer protect wealthy foreigners accused of stashing billions of dollars in secret bank vaults.

Switzerland said it would adopt international rules on tax cooperation to avoid being blacklisted at next week's G-20 meeting in London.

Mirabaud accuses Germany and France of backing the move to blacklist Switzerland in order to divert attention from their own tax loopholes and overly complicated tax systems.

He says efforts by these two nations to punish Switzerland for failing to cooperate in tax investigations stems from their jealousy of his country's financial industry.

He says the OECD has had a long established blacklist of suspect countries, but Switzerland has never been on that list.

"And, all of a sudden because Germany and France asked Mr. Guria to change the list, they did it without discussing it neither in the commission, which treats the question of tax things, nor with the country which were going to be put on the list, like Luxembourg, who was not on the list before-like Austria, which was not on the list before," said Mirabaud.

Mirabeaud says, as far as he knows, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Austria will not appear on the G-20 blacklist and will not be liable for economic sanctions.

U.S. President Barack Obama supports moves to crack down on tax havens around the world that cost the United States an estimated $100 billion in tax revenue every year.

Relations between Washington and Bern have dipped over illegal activities committed by Switzerland's largest bank, UBS in the United States. The American government has been pressuring Switzerland to release the names of alleged tax evaders.

Mirabaud says before pointing fingers at others, the United States should put its own house in order. He says he believes there are more tax evaders with accounts in Florida and Delaware than in Switzerland.

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