Switzerland’s tax deal with US goes to the wire in key vote

A SWISS government plan to protect the country’s banks from US criminal charges has been thrown into doubt by a Swiss parliamentary committee’s rejection of the proposed bill yesterday.

Lawmakers are deeply divided over the plan to allow Swiss banks, suspected of helping wealthy Americans hide their money, to disclose data to US prosecutors to help settle investigations into tax evasion.

Switzerland’s upper house of parliament is set to vote on the draft law, designed to solve the issue without overturning Swiss banking secrecy laws today, followed by the lower chamber next week, a schedule aimed at meeting a US ultimatum.

If the draft law succeeds, Swiss banks then have 120 days to hand over the internal information to US authorities.

If the draft law fails in both Swiss chambers of parliament and a way is not find to meet US demands, the Swiss government has warned the US could indict another bank, a move which is seen as the death knell for any business.

In January, Wegelin & Co, Switzerland’s oldest private bank, said it would shut its doors following a US indictment on charges of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret accounts. Wegelin later pleaded guilty, admitted wrong-doing and paid $58m (£37m) to US authorities.