CHAPTER 3

Swiss Banking Secrecy

INTRODUCTION

Controversy over Swiss banking secrecy is not new to the worlds of finance, law, and ethics. During the past century, this debate has evolved and matured with the advent of new rules and international agreements and as global financial systems have become increasingly more integrated. For many, it is difficult to draw a clear line between the myth and reality of Swiss banking secrecy. For this reason, it is helpful to start with the facts, and, in this discussion, there are seven important ones to remember.

  • Banking secrecy rules are not unique to Switzerland. Most nations require banks to protect the confidential information of customers. On paper, the banking secrecy laws of Hong Kong, Liechtenstein, Panama, Singapore, and Uruguay are as strict as Switzerland's. The difference between Switzerland and these other nations is its proven willingness and ability to deliver on promises to defend customer confidentiality.
  • Switzerland's Constitution guarantees an individual's right to privacy, but it does not guarantee (and has never guaranteed) the confidentiality of all personal information residing in banks. Banking secrecy is a bestowed entitlement with roots in the nation's civil, commercial, criminal, and banking laws. Because banking secrecy is not a fundamental human right, there are exceptions embedded in Swiss laws.
  • Switzerland's privacy laws were not passed to protect or encourage criminals or dictators who pursue illegal activities, ...

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