Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to neatly avoid discussing a US tax evasion dispute with Swiss bank UBS AG when she meets the Swiss Foreign Minister on Friday, said a US official, as the case is expected to go to court next week.
REUTERS - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to shy away from discussing a U.S. tax evasion dispute with UBS AG when she meets the Swiss Foreign Minister on Friday, a U.S. official said.
The U.S. Justice Department is expected to go to court next week to demand enforcement of a summons ordering the Swiss bank to turn over the details of accounts suspected of being used by thousands of wealthy Americans to evade income taxes.
The tax evasion case marks the biggest challenge yet by a foreign government to Switzerland’s long and jealously guarded tradition of bank secrecy.
The American official said Clinton was not expected to raise the issue and if Swiss Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey brought it up, Clinton would not discuss it in detail because the matter is before the U.S. courts.
"We do not plan on raising it. It’s not on our agenda per se," said the U.S. official, who spoke on condition that he not be named. "We can’t speak to whether the Swiss will raise it or not. ... even if it is raised, we really would not discuss any of the details given that it’s an ongoing court case."
Another administration official said the issue was likely to come up and that it was conceivable that Clinton would take the position that UBS should turn over the information sought by the Justice Department.
A Justice Department attorney said on Wednesday talks were under way between the parties to try to settle the dispute but no agreement had yet been reached.
"The government plans to continue talking but the United States’ position is that the court should proceed to hold the hearing next week," Stuart Gibson, the Justice Department attorney, said in a conference call with the Florida federal court judge presiding over the case.
Judge Alan Gold has agreed to hold another status conference on Friday, to allow the parties to see whether a deal could be reached or an additional delay was necessary.
But he said he was otherwise ready to proceed with the trial on Monday and issued an order saying "absent a signed settlement agreement" no requests for a delay would be considered after Friday’s conference at 8:45 a.m. EDT (1245 GMT).
The trial against UBS was originally set to begin in Miami on July 13, but Gold agreed to delay it until Aug. 3 to allow time for a settlement.
Date created : 2009-07-31