As the curtain falls on Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf’s career in government, one of the most abiding legacies she leaves behind is the collapse of Swiss banking secrecy under her watch as Finance Minister.
Her predecessor, Hans-Rudolf Merz, told the world in 2008 that it would “break its teeth on Swiss banking secrecy” if it tried to bring Switzerland to heel over tax evasion. But it has been the Swiss establishment spitting teeth after losing a bruising encounter with the United States that paved the way for a global surrender of secrecy.
Praise and vitriol concerning Widmer-Schlumpf’s personal role in the process is spread out across the political spectrum. Her media comments throughout the crisis frequently inflamed rightwing politicians, who in 2012 demanded that the mandate to conduct banking secrecy negotiations be switched to the foreign ministry.
There is one thing nearly everyone can agree on: the business model of employing secrecy to help foreign clients evade taxes in their own countries was defunct by the time Widmer-Schlumpf became Finance Minister in November 2010.
But opinions diverge markedly when analysing exactly how this was achieved and judging whether Switzerland ended up with the best possible deal.