- Banking secrecy - France - Switzerland - tax evasion
AFP - Switzerland said Thursday it signed a double taxation deal with France that would allow for data exchange aimed at clamping down on tax cheats.
The agreement "contains a provision on the exchange of information in accordance with the OECD standard," said the Swiss finance ministry in a statement, referring to rules established this year by the 30-nation Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
French Finance and Economy Minister Christine Lagarde, who signed the deal with Swiss Finance Minister and President Hans-Rudolf Merz, described the treaty as a "positive" one.
Banking secrecy can now "no longer be used by one of the two countries in its refusal to provide information" of tax dodgers, she told journalists.
Faced with international pressure, Switzerland announced earlier this year it would ease banking secrecy rules and offer more assistance on matters involving tax offences.
Banking secrecy laws prohibit Swiss banks from revealing information to domestic or foreign authorities or any third parties about their clients, except in cases involving recognized criminal investigations.
In Switzerland, only tax fraud is regarded as a crime, not tax evasion which is treated only as an offence, a judicial distinction that does not exist in most other major economies.
But with the new bilateral deals, Switzerland would offer assistance on all tax offences, as long as there is evidence of tax violations.
Such deals have been negotiated with several countries, including Japan, the United States and Britain. Most still have to be ratified, while three -- with Denmark, Luxembourg and France -- have been signed.