This is good news for Switzerland and the safety of assets and bank accounts held by Swiss banks. A Swiss politician and a former bank IT employee were recently convicted on Wednesday of breaching Switzerland’s strict Banking Secrecy rules by handing over information. This event triggered the resignation of the country’s most senior central banker four years ago.
The bank worker was punished and suspended for two years. The politician, Hermann Lei of the Swiss People’s Party, or SVP, was fined CHF 40800 and also suspended for two years. Prosecutors had formerly asked a one-year jail sentence for the bank worker and a fine of CHF 19800 for the politician.
The decision by judges at the Zurich district court ends a 4 and a half year saga that shocked Switzerland and brought the focus on Swiss Banking Secrecy law more closely.
Philipp Hildebrand resigned as chairman of the Swiss National Bank in January 2012 after his personal bank records were passed over to the Swiss media.
The records showed a currency trade worth more than USD 500,000 by his then-wife on Aug. 15, 2011, days before the Zurich-based central bank “Nationalbank” decided to interact in currency markets to weaken the franc in the summer of 2011. Less than one month later, the SNB was setting a ceiling on how high the franc could trade against the euro.
This scandal not only triggered the resignation of Mr. Hildebrand, who had decided on the Swiss National Bank’s strategy during the financial crisis and was a rising star in global banking law circles.
The former IT specialist at Bank Sarasin was accused of giving the details of the currency transactions to Hermann Lei, a politician in the right-wing Swiss People’s Party or SVP, who then leaked the information to a fellow senior politician before it reached the media. Among those politicians implicated was Christoph Blocher, vice president of the SVP and a former member of Switzerland’s government. His home and office were searched by Zurich state prosecutors investigating the affair.
Mr. Blocher, who is credited with transforming the right-wing SVP into the strongest force in Swiss politics, hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing. “Both men came to me to ask for advice,” Mr. Blocher said in an interview last week. “The motives of the two men need to be looked at. I believe they acted with the most honorable intentions.”
“My client found this information and went to Mr. Lei to get his advice on what he should do with it,” said Viktor Györffy, an attorney for the former bank employee. “He was seeking legal advice and didn’t do it for personal gain,” he said, citing the lightness of the sentence imposed by the court. A spokeswoman for Sarasin declined to comment.
“I do not agree with the court’s decision and will probably appeal against it,” said Mr. Lei.
Mr. Hildebrand, now 52 years old, had spent more than nine years at the Swiss National Bank before stepping down, the last two as chairman. In that role, he didn’t have the support and sympathy of some Swiss politicians, including Mr. Blocher, who thought the central banker was too high profile while the interventions to weaken the currencies put the bank at risk of making huge losses. He was succeeded by Thomas Jordan, who remains SNB chairman. In January 2015, the SNB abandoned the ceiling it had set on the franc’s value against the euro.
This case shows that Swiss lawmakers and prosecutors are still fighting for a strong Swiss banking secrecy.
Swiss Banking Secrecy is still in force and enacted. The Swiss banking law still protects your personal account information efficiently. Bankers are forced to respect the law and keep client information confidential. Furthermore, in combination with the Banking Secrecy Switzerland has the strongest Data Protection laws of the world protecting the privacy of the client.
Despite international tax treaties and automatic exchange of information among Switzerland and OECD member states the banking secrecy still protects the privacy of clients efficiently.
Swiss banking secrecy still exists, but not for tax dodgers.
For any help with bank secrecy issue or any other Swiss banking service you might need, do not hesitate to contact us.