(Bloomberg) Switzerland is paving the way for its banks to settle a dispute with the U.S. over tax evasion, approving a plan after years of diplomatic wrangling.
The government gave the Finance Ministry instructions to complete work on a joint statement with the U.S., according to an announcement today. “As soon as the joint statement has been signed with the United States, the text of the document will be published,” the government said.
The deal is the result of more than two years of negotiations as the Swiss try to resolve a U.S. investigation into at least a dozen banks, including Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd., that allegedly helped U.S. citizens evade taxes.
“The program enables all banks in Switzerland to settle their U.S. past quickly and conclusively and creates the necessary legal certainty,” the Swiss Bankers Association said in a statement, welcoming the deal.
Switzerland, whose banks manage a world-leading $2.2 billion in offshore assets, wanted to prevent the indictment of another bank. Wegelin & Co., once the country’s oldest, was indicted last year and pleaded guilty in January to helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets. It has since closed its doors.
Wegelin had taken over clients from UBS AG, which avoided prosecution in 2009 by admitting it aided tax evasion, paying $780 million and handing over client names.
Among its demands, the U.S. wanted lists of possible tax evaders who have shifted accounts from one bank to another, the Swiss government has said.
Today’s announcement comes after parliament in June voted down a bill that would have given banks a yearlong legal reprieve and allowed them to settle with the U.S. and hand over information on employees and third parties who worked with Americans in exchange for a fine. It would also have established legal protections for bank employees.
—With assistance from Elena Logutenkova in Zurich. Editors: Zoe Schneeweiss, Matthias Wabl
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