Saturday, June 9, 2012

Swiss minister sees U.S. tax deal by November

U.S. officials seem to want an end to a dispute over wealthy Americans with hidden Swiss offshore bank accounts before the U.S. presidential election in November, the Swiss finance minister said in a newspaper interview on Saturday.

"My impression at the moment is that the U.S. wants a solution by the elections. Both sides endeavour to find a solution in the foreseeable future," Switzerland's finance minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf told Basler Zeitung.

Eleven Swiss banks - including Credit Suisse and Julius Baer - are under investigation by the United States for aiding U.S. 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 U.S. 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. A visit by Widmer-Schlumpf to Washington in April brought no breakthrough.

The U.S. 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.

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