US tax investigations leave many Swiss bankers afraid to travel: interview


GENEVA–As a United States hunt for tax evaders and their accomplices gains momentum, many Swiss bankers are afraid to go abroad for fear of arrest, one business leader said in an interview published Sunday. “In my opinion, some 1,000 Swiss bankers no longer dare to go to the United States, or even travel abroad,” Martin Naville, the head of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, was quoted as saying by Le Matin Dimanche weekly. Swiss banks and industry representatives are increasingly cautioning bankers who have worked with U.S. clients to refrain from traveling outside Switzerland, the paper reported.

Swiss banks are believed to have accepted tens of billions of undeclared dollars from U.S. citizens, though they now refuse such money, and a number of banks are under U.S. investigation. The U.S. has not made public which individual bankers it is probing, but according to Le Matin Dimanche, about 30 names are on the list. Recently however, “the United States has proven it can strike where and when it likes, and now with the help of European countries,” the paper wrote, describing widespread paranoia throughout the banking industry. The report comes just over a week after the arrest in Italy of a former high-ranking UBS executive alleged to have helped U.S. customers conceal their assets. Raoul Weil, the 54-year-old ex-chairman of UBS’s global wealth management service, was indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury in 2008 for his alleged role in overseeing the U.S. cross-border business. The indictment alleges that Weil and co-conspirators helped U.S. customers hide around US$20 billion (15 billion euros) in assets from tax authorities.