Switzerland orders Julius Baer to hand over U.S. client data


The Swiss government has ordered local bank Julius Baer to hand over data on U.S. clients that will be passed on to U.S. tax authorities, amid signs a long-running tax dispute between the two countries is close to being settled.

Julius Baer said on Tuesday it was working to provide the data, which will be handed over under the terms of an existing Swiss-U.S. double taxation treaty, but declined to comment on how many clients were involved.

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Baer is among a group of about a dozen Swiss banks, which also includes Credit Suisse , that are under investigation by U.S. authorities seeking to crack down on funds hidden in Swiss bank accounts.

A government-brokered settlement is largely agreed, according to sources familiar with the matter, and is expected to involve billions of dollars of fines and a handover of client names.

However, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf needs to find a way to make the deal palatable in Switzerland, given a tradition of bank secrecy which has helped to build the country's $2 trillion offshore financial industry.

In 2010 the Swiss government turned to lawmakers to force the handover of more than 4,000 files on UBS's American clients as part of a landmark $780 million settlement, after the move was contested in court.

(Reporting by Martin de Sa'Pinto; Editing by Mark Potter)