10 Jun 2012

Swiss minister predicts US tax deal move

7:37 am on 10 June 2012

Switzerland's finance minister says US officials seem to want an end to a dispute over wealthy Americans with hidden Swiss offshore bank accounts before the US presidential election in November.

Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told the Basler Zeitung newspaper that her impressionis that the US wants a solution by the elections. "Both sides endeavour to find a solution in the foreseeable future," she said.

Eleven Swiss banks including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer are under investigation by the United States for aiding US citizens suspected of dodging taxes with the help of offshore bank accounts.

Switzerland wants the investigations dropped in exchange for payment of fines and the transfer of names of thousands of US bank clients. At the same time, Switzerland is seeking a deal to shield the remainder of its 300 or so banks from U.S. prosecution.

The talks appear to have stalled in recent months, the Reuters news agency reports. A visit by Switzerland's finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf to Washington in April brought no breakthrough.

The US prosecutor most closely linked with piercing the veil of Swiss bank secrecy, Kevin Downing, quit to join a law firm earlier this month, a move which experts say won't hinder U.S. efforts to pursue Swiss banks.