HSBC ‘not representative’ of Swiss banking Matthew Allen, Swissinfo.Ch
Helping tax cheats or money launderers has never been an integral strategy of the Swiss financial centre, Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) chief executive Claude-Alain Margelisch tells swissinfo.ch as the HSBC ‘Swiss Leaks’ scandal continues.
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The unsavoury activities of HSBC, UBS and others, brought into the public domain by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, were the exception rather than the rule, the Swiss banking lobby group insists.
After a series of reforms which are still ongoing, the Swiss financial sector has already evolved beyond recognition from the days of tax evasion scandals, Margelisch says.
swissinfo.ch: Have recent international headlines about alleged tax evasion and money laundering painted a fair picture of banking in Switzerland?
Claude-Alain Margelisch: HSBC is just one of over 280 banks in Switzerland. The alleged problems are absolutely not representative of the Swiss banking community. These were old cases dating back between 2002 and 2007.
Before 2009 Switzerland did not cooperate internationally in the context of tax evasion because at that time we had a regulation to limit cooperation to cases of tax fraud, not tax evasion. The situation has completely changed now. Since 2009, Switzerland has cooperated for all tax offences internationally. And in April 2013 Switzerland accepted the automatic exchange of tax information (AIE).
However, we need to make a very clear distinction between tax evasion and money laundering cases. In 1977 Switzerland was one of the first countries to introduce very strong due diligence and ‘know your customer’ rules to prevent money laundering. [The f