Swiss say they are halfway done handing over of UBS account data to the US authorities

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Swiss halfway done giving UBS account info to US

GENEVA — The Swiss government said Wednesday it has handed roughly half the names of wealthy Americans demanded by Washington to solve a tax evasion dispute involving Switzerland’s biggest bank, UBS AG.

The government said in a statement it has transmitted “about half” of the 4,450 files sought by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

The remaining data — which was meant to be delivered to Washington by Friday — would be handed over soon, it said.

The IRS said it was pleased with the progress made and indicated that the delay in receiving the remaining data wouldn’t stand in the way of completing the deal, which will see U.S. authorities withdraw a civil suit against UBS that was suspended by last August’s accord.

“We are able to confirm that, to date, we have received information on over 2,000 accounts,” the IRS said in a statement. “Based on information received to date and assurances by the Swiss government, we anticipate being in a position to withdraw the John Doe summons this fall.”

The case, which began three years ago, centers on allegations that UBS helped thousands of wealthy U.S. clients hide millions of dollars in offshore bank accounts. Last year, the bank agreed to turn over hundreds of client files and pay a $780 million penalty in return for a deferred prosecution agreement. But Washington insisted that UBS reveal a further 4,450 American names or face a costly civil investigation.

Fulfillment of the agreement was delayed by a Swiss court decision and parliamentarians angry that the deal undermined Switzerland’s strict banking secrecy rules. The government only won parliament’s approval in June, after warning that UBS and possibly Switzerland’s entire economy could be at risk if Washington’s demands were snubbed.

UBS shares rose shortly after the Swiss government announcement, closing up 1.3 percent at 16.96 Swiss francs ($16.51) on the Zurich exchange.

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