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Swiss ease bank secrecy rules

Article published on the 2009-03-13 Latest update 2009-03-14 08:43 TU

Swiss tax haven(Photo:Reuters)

Swiss tax haven

Switzerland says it will relax its practices on banking secrecy and release information on savings account holders to other countries. The government says this will be done on a case by case basis. Luxembourg has announced it will also relax its secrecy laws by agreeing to swap information with other countries if tax fraud was suspected. 

The Swiss government has accepted standards laid down by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Develoment (OECD), which has set the rules on banks sharing data.

Switzerland is the world's largest offshore financial centre and it is estimated that the banks hold some two trillion dollars of global wealth abroad.  

On Thursday, Belgium, Andorra and Liechtenstein bowed to international pressure to ease strict secrecy rules and cooperate with foreign tax authorities. Leichtenstein and Andorra were previously on the OECD's list of  "unco-operative" tax havens.

But Austria says it will lift its banking secrecy only where there is justified suspicion of wrongdoing. Finance Minister Josef Proell said there was no question of "direct or systematic access of bank accounts".

Three weeks before the April summit of heads from the Group of 20 leading countries, France and Germany have been leading efforts to clampdown on tax havens. Both countries want a black list and sanctions those appearing on the list.