Credit Suisse scandal threatens Swiss efforts to clean up reputation

Tue Apr 4, 2017 12:53pm EDT
 
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By Joshua Franklin

ZURICH (Reuters) - An anonymous tip to Dutch authorities on thousands of suspicious accounts at Credit Suisse (CSGN.S: Quote) could hardly have come at a worse time for Switzerland and its banks.

The information that triggered raids in five countries raises new doubts about the effectiveness of Switzerland's efforts to shed its decades-old reputation as one of the world's major tax havens.

"It's a wake-up call not only for the banking community but also for authorities," said Mark Pieth, an anti-corruption expert and criminal law professor at the University of Basel.

"Instead of really just being angry at others they should ask, have we really been zealous enough?"

Switzerland is among the countries that signed up to a global data-sharing program led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, known as the Automatic Exchange of Information, which was designed to root out tax dodgers. 

Swiss banks, having paid more than $5 billion to settle allegations of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes, have trumpeted their reformed ways, publicly encouraging clients to sign up to government programs allowing them to declare untaxed assets. 

But last week's raids of Credit Suisse's offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam as part of a coordinated investigation in five countries show Switzerland still has a way to go to break with its past.

It is a wake-up call for financial markets as well.   Continued...

 
A logo is pictured on a branch of the Credit Suisse bank in Bern, Switzerland April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse