Swiss president sees no need to change banking secrecy

Swiss President Ueli Maurer today said he saw "no need to change strategy" after fellow financial centre Luxembourg eased its bank secrecy practices.

Now is a "dangerous time for Switzerland (but) unlike Luxembourg, Switzerland is not part of the EU" and it meets Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development criteria, Maurer said in an interview published today.

Luxembourg, home to a prized financial centre, changed tack last Wednesday in the face of growing international pressure over tax evasion, agreeing to the automatic exchange of bank account information with its EU partners from 2015, he told the Swiss weekly Le Matin Dimanche.

Banking secrecy is "comparable" to medical confidentiality, Maurer said, adding: "The state must absolutely respect the private sphere" and should not know "what there is in your bank account".

Maurer said that Switzerland has already made concessions, noting that honouring the United States' Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act led to the lifting of banking secrecy for US customers of Swiss banks.

Moreover, "banking secrecy no longer has as much importance as two or three years ago," he said. "The banking centre's strength also has to do with Switzerland's political stability, its reliability and its credibility."

Internal pressure, however, could force Switzerland to change position, he conceded.

When asked about wealthy foreigners who profit from Switzerland's banking secrecy practices to avoid taxes, Maurer said: "In each system there are ways to slip through the holes of the net. We must correct these flaws."

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