Exemptions to Bank Secrecy in Switzerland
Swiss banking secrecy is a serious matter. Banking laws in Switzerland mean that information about customers cannot be shared with Swiss and foreign governments, including tax authorities and other Swiss authorities such as law enforcement. At the same time, all accounts continue to remain linked to individuals and complete anonymity does not exist. Swiss bank secrecy was first codified with the Swiss Banking Act of 1934 and is outlined in the Federal Act on Banks and Savings.
While bank secrecy is upheld by government and financial institutions in Switzerland, it can be circumvented in special circumstances. For example, in a criminal investigation a prosecutor or judge may lift the legal restriction on naming account holders. This would allow law enforcement officials or other authorities to access relevant personal information. Information is usually obtained through a judge’s subpoena issued by a Swiss court. Although information on banking clients may be shared, it is often only shared with authorities in cases of serious criminal acts. These may include involvement in terrorism related activities or tax fraud. Information is general not shared with authorities for tax evasion or the failure to report of taxable income, although foreign governments and other international organisations have recently put pressure on the Swiss government to address the issue of tax evasion.
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