ZURICH/GENEVA | Thu Jun 14, 2012 11:43am EDT
(Reuters) – Browsing glossy brochures in search of an exotic and relaxing summer holiday is the norm for Swiss private bankers at this time of year.
But many will be going no further than the Alps, fretting that Switzerland’s tax disputes with the United States and other nations could leave them open to arrest and extradition if they leave the country and are suspected of aiding tax cheats.
Even secretaries working on U.S. accounts at the banks are reckoned to be at risk, while one banker rang an advice hotline because he was worried about nipping over the French border to buy groceries.
All this comes as Switzerland negotiates to get U.S. probes against 11 banks dropped in return for payment of fines and the transfer of names of thousands of U.S. clients. It also wants a deal to shield the rest of its 300 or so banks from prosecution.
Several Swiss bank employees have been arrested or indicted in the U.S. since the long-running tax dispute broke.
Banks including HSBC and Credit Suisse have given about 10,000 employee names to U.S. authorities in an attempt to avoid the fate of private bank Wegelin, which broke up in January under threat of indictment, bank employees and lawyers said.
A middle office worker, who attended a Geneva advice seminar organized by The Association of Swiss Bank Employees (SBPV), and whose bank sent her name to U.S. authorities, cancelled plans to attend a school reunion in the States in July.
“I recently went to London but I had my radar on the whole time. I am very uncomfortable when I travel,” she said.
Former UBS banker Renzo Gadola, who received five months’ probation after co-operating with U.S. authorities, and Credit Suisse’s Christos Bagios, yet to be charged since his January 2011 arrest, are among Swiss bank staff to have been arrested in the States.
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