Monday, February 15, 2010

Noise About the German-Swiss Spat

New York Times reported yesterday here that the Swiss are grousing about the the German Governments purchase and potential use of "stolen" Swiss bank data to proceed against German persons who have cheated on their taxes.  To the extent that those German persons did cheat, of course, they were enabled by the Swiss bankers.  The Swiss have no problem with enabling crime in other countries, but take offense when those other countries enable crimes in Switzerland (specifically by paying for "stolen" Swiss bank data).

At any rate, the article reports that some influential person asserted that “If Germany buys stolen bank data, we will work for a change in the law so that the complete Swiss accounts of German people holding public office have to be disclosed.” The article reports that, although influential, it may be unlikely that such a proposal would be approved by the legislature. Still, it is symptomatic of the angst that the Swiss have.

By the way, I personally do not think it would be a bad result to have the Swiss disclose the bank data of all known officials of other countries. That would be a great start.

I guess the real lesson  is that all this publicity cannot help but put the idea in the heads of a lot of Swiss and other tax haven bank personnel who feel underappreciated and underpaid that they too can become rich.  If so, the time is now, because I suspect that a host of considerations will in the relatively near future make the Swiss banking system more transparent in terms of other countries getting information on tax cheats.  Don't wait, guys (including gals), the oppotunity is now and may not last forever.  (I wonder if I am enabling those bank minions simply by noting this lucrative opportunity (I suspect that they already know and some are setting their plans); perhaps the Swiss will threaten to disclose my Swiss bank account (I hope they do, I would like to find some money I am not aware of.)


  1. "To the extent that those German persons did cheat, of course, they were enabled by the Swiss bankers."

    I wonder if you feel the same about American bankers holding money of Latin American customers without any kind of reporting to their respective governments

    I also wonder what would you (and the US government) say if an employee of a US bank stole those banking records and offer it to those LA governments.
    Something tells me that you would call it a real theft without quotes.

  2. Mr. Golz, your point is well taken. It is a matter of perspective. I am not saying that the Swiss should not prosecute those persons who steal the Swiss bank data and sell it. They should. And if it happens in a U.S. bank, we should.

    As to the enablers -- whether Swiss or U.S. bankers -- if they do too much (I suppose that line will get drawn) -- they can be subject to prosecution in the countries whose fiscs are raided.

    I think that for law enforcement purposes banking should be transparent and information available. I know that there are risks involved in that approach, but I think the risks can be minimized and the benefits maximized.

    But that's just my policy statement. It probably means something only to me.

    Thanks for your comments.

    Jack Townsend

  3. if we bought property, knowing it was stolen, we would go to jail. A government is a representation of the people and should live by the same standard.


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