This seems to be a war that will probably never end. But who really wins when everyone seems to lose?

The folly of the incurable hubris of a deluded hegemon on steroids perhaps??

Enjoy.  Andy


Swiss bankers travelling to European countries could risk arrest

SwissInfo, 7 August 2012.

Swiss bankers whose names were delivered to the United States in April as part of the crackdown on US tax evaders face the risk of arrest while travelling in some European countries, not just on US soil.

Extradition treaties between the US and countries including France, Germany, Italy, Austria and Britain make it possible for the US to take legal steps via Interpol against bankers suspected of helping US citizens evade taxes, Denise Chervet, central secretary of the Swiss Bank Employees Association told the Swiss News Agency.

“If the US issues an arrest warrant via Interpol, the employee targeted could be arrested in any country with which Washington has an extradition treaty, and where the alleged offences are also punishable,” Chervet said.

Around 10,000 employees of 11 banks under investigation by US authorities could be affected by potential travel restrictions.

Chervet said that employees visiting the US who had had direct contact with American clients “run the risk of being arrested for violating American tax laws for having assisted with tax evasion”. Other bank employees who may not have had direct contact with clients could be called as witnesses, she said.

Bankers’ families could also be implicated: a report in La Tribune de Genève newspaper this week said two teenagers who arrived in the US to visit their grandparents were interrogated by officials for six hours about the whereabouts and working habits of their father, a Geneva banker.

Staying put

Following pressure from the US government, in April the Swiss government authorised the eleven banks to deliver the names of their employees to the US authorities. The data, however, had to be encoded.

Since then, some 10,000 files have been relayed to the US Department of Justice containing written correspondence and notes of telephone calls made between bank staff and US clients. Some of this data has been used to identify specific bank staff.

Swiss bank employees, fearful of how the decision to hand over data could affect them, have begun legal proceedings against banks and the government in an effort to find out what personal data was transferred to the US.

“You don’t know what the US is planning to do with the data of bank employees. As a precaution I’m advising my clients not to leave Switzerland,” said Geneva lawyer Douglas Hornung, who represents 40 current and former bank employees.

The dispute between the two countries over Switzerland’s bank secrecy laws and US citizens’ use of Swiss accounts to shield  untaxed income has overshadowed relations since 2009, when Swiss bank UBS was fined $780 million (SFr.755 million) for helping US citizens dodge taxes.

A double-taxation accord signed by the Swiss and US governments in September 2009 was revised and ratified by the Swiss parliament in March, but still requires ratification by the US Senate.

Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf said at a press conference on Tuesday that the government had authorised banks to hand over data to US authorities for the purpose of self-defence. The finance minister said she plans to meet with bank employees who may be affected by the delivery of data.

The government had unable to ascertain whether the banks acted in accordance with data privacy acts and labour laws, Widmer-Schlumpf said. However she stressed that the responsibility lies with the banks involved and with Swiss financial market regulator Finma.


US attempts to clean up on tax evasion took a new twist when a Geneva banker's two teenage children were detained when they arrived on US soil, it was reported Monday.

TheLocal, Switzerland, 6 August 2012.

The teenagers, due to visit their grandparents, were questioned for several hours by US officials who asked them the whereabouts of their father and whether he sometimes worked in the country, according to La Tribune de Genève newspaper.

During their six-hour interrogation the youngsters were not allowed to contact their grandparents who were waiting for them at an undisclosed airport, the report added.

The development is the latest twist in a long-running tax dispute that has dominated Swiss-US relations in recent years, with Swiss banks agreeing in April to hand over confidential information to Washington in April so as to avoid US proceedings.

In all, some 10,000 names of people linked to Swiss banks with American clients were given to the US tax office with Bern's blessing, according to SwissRespect, the organisation founded by Geneva lawyer Douglas Hornung who represents bank employees caught up in the affair.

"I advise my clients not to leave Switzerland," said Hornung, who advises around 40 bank staff in the country.

Another six banks are in Washington's sights – Wegelin, Neue Zürcher Bank, Liechtenstein landesbank LLB and Israeli banks Leumi, Hapoalim and Mizrahi.

Switzerland has signed an agreement on the issue with Germany, Austria and Britain on curbing tax evasion and Swiss President Widmer-Schlumpf recently announced that she hoped to come to a "global solution" on the issue this year.


Top Swiss bankers have voiced doubts that the tax deal with the USA will be completed before the end of the year, with some saying agreement may never be reached.

TheLocal, Switzerland, 30 July 2012.

Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf’s aspirations to conclude a tax deal with the USA before the end of the year are unrealistic, according to the newspaper SonntagsZeitung, Tages Anzeiger Online reported.

While some bankers told the paper they believed any deal would take longer to come to fruition, others said they doubted that the two sides would ever reach agreement.

In any event, the banking world is not expecting to see any developments soon.

“We have indications that any solution has been put off indefinitely,” a banking chief told SonntagsZeitung.

The delay has in part been caused by the US presidential campaign, which has diverted Barack Obama’s attention to re-election issues. Should he lose, it is unclear in which direction negotiations would proceed.

Further, the chief negotiator of the new treaty, US attorney general Eric Holder, has lost credibility after having been caught up in a disastrous campaign against weapon-smuggling.

Additional problems have been caused by the fact that those Swiss banks not on the US target list have refused to assist the eleven banks that are. Further, the banks are becoming increasingly resistant to the idea of sharing data with the US as they believe this will have a negative effect on competition.


Retail bank Raiffeisen is Switzerland's latest institution to part with its US clients  because of increasing red tape and amid an ongoing tax row with the United States, media reports said on Saturday.

AFP/TheLocal Switzerland, 23 July 2012.

"We will soon shed those American clients who are taxable in the United States," bank spokesman Franz Wuerth told ATS news agency confirming reports by several regional papers.

But he added that Raiffeisen had "very few foreign clients and even fewer from America". Only 0.03 percent of its clients would be affected out of a total 3.5 million.

Coop, another retail bank, announced it had stopped doing business with its US clients.

US tax officials have been putting pressure on Swiss banks to release information about clients who are US nationals and who might be evading taxes and the two countries are involved in talks to settle the dispute.

Overall, 11 Swiss or Switzerland-based banks have been targeted including Credit Suisse, Julius Bär, Wegelin, Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB), Basler Kantonalbank (BKB), Neue Zürcher Bank, the Swiss subsidiary of HSBC, Liechtensteinische Landesbank (LLB), as well as Israel's Leumi, Hapoalim and Mizrahi banks.

As part of the ongoing negotiations Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has authorized Swiss banks to reveal to US authorities the names of their staff working with US clients.

The data transfer to US justice authorities has caused alarm among bankers who fear that they might be arrested on arrival in the United States.

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