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Swiss Move to End Secrecy on US Accounts

Switzerland has taken a step toward helping the United States catch wealthy investors who evade taxation by putting their money in secret Swiss bank accounts.

The Swiss government said Wednesday it would allow - but not force - banks in the Alpine nation to circumvent the country's secrecy laws and disclose the names of American account holders to U.S. authorities investigating tax evasion cases. By cooperating, the banks could avoid criminal prosecution for allegedly helping the tax evaders, but still have to pay fines to the United States.

The Swiss parliament must consider the agreement, which is expected in the next few months.

Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf called the agreement "a good and a practical solution" to lengthy negotiations with the United States over the country's long-standing secrecy laws on the bank accounts. But some Swiss lawmakers said Bern's negotiators caved in to U.S. demands to complete the agreement and complained about the loss of secrecy that would occur if it takes effect.

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