Sunday 25 February 2018

The Punt: Rude awakening for bankers

The Punt is fond of Switzerland. All those mountains make for a lovely holiday in any season while the cities, especially Bern, are equally charming.

Still, the Punt is not sure whether Switzerland is enough. It seems some Swiss bankers may have to get used to the idea of being prisoners in a gilded cage after one of their number was hauled in handcuffs before an Italian court earlier this week.

The unfortunate banker was former UBS man Raoul Weil, who was arrested on a weekend trip to Bologna and now sits in an Italian jail fighting extradition to the United States. He is just one of hundreds of Swiss bank executives caught up in accusations of helping Americans dodge their taxes.

"Maybe we'll all be taking our vacations in Ticino and Graubuenden," one senior private banker told Reuters, making light of concerns among his peers about travelling abroad by talking up the charms of Switzerland's mountains.

"There is definitely concern. Definitely," he said, speaking on condition that he and his bank not be identified. Switzerland famously does not extradite its own citizens in cases of tax fraud.

But Italy, which acted on an Interpol warrant, has given the US six weeks to seek Weil's transfer for trial. Weil has denied the charges, but there is no doubt that his arrest will have sent a wind every bit as chilly down the spines of many a Swiss banker. Life just ain't what it used to be.

Irish Independent

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