Swiss Bankers Come Under the Microscope

Very, very interesting.  Everyone knows about Swiss and Liechtensteiner banks, and how those countries’ strict bank secrecy laws make them attractive places to put money.  Earlier this year, Germany caused enormous consternation when it convinced a disgruntled Liechtensteiner banker to put a list of clients on a CD, which the BND (Germany’s intelligence agency) then bought for $6 million.  (Link.)

Now comes word that the United States is taking their own crack at Switzerland.  The DOJ has announced that Raoul Weil “has been charged with conspiring with other executives, managers, private bankers and clients of the banking firm to defraud the United States.”  According to the indictment, Mr. Weil accumulated approximately 20,000 clients who “reportedly concealed approximately $20 billion in assets from the IRS.”

Imminent action against the head of a major Swiss bank has been hinted at since at least May, when Der Spiegel reported that “European finance ministers are about to receive support from the United States. Investigations into major Swiss bank UBS and a proposed law against tax havens are ratcheting up pressure against the system.” (Link.)

Switzerland’s Finance Minister, for his part, says that Switzerland is committed to maintaining its banking secrecy and says that “Switzerland will only cooperate with foreign authorities and exchange details of Swiss bank account holders when those authorities can prove outright tax fraud”; to date it has not provided that information.  (Link.)

I think, considering the massive bailout packages being proposed in Congress, and the ones that have already been issued, we’ll be seeing more such stories.