Saturday, February 21, 2009

US-Swiss relationship being re-assessed... by the Swiss?

Swiss party wants to punish U.S. for UBS probe

The fact that there was a probe should not be too surprising. Switzerland has long had agreements with the US and some other countries to reveal the identities of Swiss bank account holders, if there is credible evidence they are engaged in criminal activities.

The difference here is that it seems the Swiss were heavily pressured to provide the names, "or else", and that seems to be part of what the SVP is protesting.

Here's the part that makes me sad.
  1. Switzerland and the US have for a very long time had amicable relations, the sort you would expect between two vigorous democracies with similar political traditions. The US founding fathers spoke admiringly of the Swiss.
  2. The current Swiss banking secrecy laws were implemented in the 1930s, primarily to shield Jewish account holders from Nazi officials trying to track down those peoples' wealth for confiscation. If the guy in the Berlin branch of a Swiss bank doesn't have the real account numbers, you can't beat the info out of him. And if you try intimidating a Swiss banker or his family inside Switzerland, you are likely to get shot.
Based on the US behavior in question, and the outcome our recent elections, I wonder if Switzerland is now re-assessing its relationship with the USA, much as it had to with Germany in the 1930s.

"Well, Hans, it seems the US electorate has fallen for the same thing the German one did in the 1930s. Time to start limiting our interactions with them?"

The Swiss banking laws remain in place because there are many countries in the world run by people little better than the Nazis, who would be glad to unjustifiably extort perfectly legitimate money from their citizens if it knew they had some overseas. The Swiss provide a legitimate safe haven for such money.

Sad to think if the US may now be moving into the category of 3rd world kleptocrat governments the Swiss have traditionally been on guard against.

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