Swiss bank UBS and the U.S. Justice Department have reached an agreement regarding the release of information on some 52,000 accounts held by American banking clients, according to media reports.
Although details have not yet been released, the Wall Street Journal has said it is expected the data will be handed over to the U.S. tax authorities and Washington will dismiss the case it filed in a U.S. court against UBS.
The bank has been at the center of the U.S. government’s efforts to uncover the names of American citizens who allegedly hid assets in its accounts in order to avoid paying taxes at home. Switzerland has long been a favorite banking destination of the wealthy due to its secretive banking laws.
This, however, may soon change.
In recent months, governments of several nations have been putting pressure on Swiss authorities to put more regulation and transparency in place, partially spurred by the crisis that rocked the foundations of global finance earlier this year and required many governments to run significant budget deficits to help their economies out of the recession.
In fact, the tide may be changing inside Switzerland itself. Media reports suggest the country’s Social Democratic party has filed a lawsuit with Zurich prosecutors against former UBS chairmen Marcel Ospel and Peter Kurer in connection with the bank’s management of American offshore funds.
"[The deal between the Justice Department and UBS] ultimately means nothing other than that UBS aided and abetted tax fraud," said party president Christian Levrat.