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Business

Austrian, Luxembourg, Swiss banks forced to ease secrecy

Video by Christopher MOORE

Latest update : 2009-03-14

Renowned tax havens Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland have agreed to relax banking secrecy practices, three weeks ahead of the G20 economic summit.

AFP - Switzerland announced on Friday that it would relax its practices on banking secrecy, saying it would conform to OECD standards after similar decisions by several other European countries.
   
The government said in a statement that by accepting standards laid down by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Switzerland was undertaking to strengthen the exchange of information with other countries.
   


This would be done "case by case" and on the basis of "concrete and justified" requests.
  
The decision would be applied by means of bilateral agreements on double taxation.
   
But the Swiss authorities insisted that their acceptance of OECD standards did not change the basic nature of banking secrecy in Switzerland.
  
Switzerland was "maintaining banking secrecy and resolutely refused all automatic transmission of information," the government said.
   
"The private sphere of clients is still protected from unjustified watching from abroad."
   
Three weeks before a summit meeting of leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) leading countries in London, and in the face of a risk that Switzerland might be included on a so-called black list of uncooperative centres sheltering tax evasion, the Swiss authorities also stressed that its "banking secrecy does not protect tax crimes."
   
The Swiss statement came the day after Liechtenstein, Andorra and Belgium said that they would relax their banking secrecy practices.
   
And on Friday, Austrian Finance Minister Josef Proll said that Austria would agree to lift its banking secrecy, case by case, if "justified suspcions" were presented.
   
Luxembourg Treasury and Budget Minister Luc Frieden said on Friday that his country was ready to relax its banking secrecy, mainly by accepting to exchange information with other countries if tax fraud were suspected.

Date created : 2009-03-13

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