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Business

Swiss bankers 'stay home for fear of US authorities'

A Swiss newspaper has reported that many Swiss bankers are afraid to go abroad for fear of arrest amid a US tax investigation. The report comes after the detention in Italy of a Swiss former UBS executive.

In its report, the Swiss Sunday newspaper Le Matin Dimanche cited comments made in an interview by the head of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, Martin Naville.

"In my opinion, some 1,000 Swiss bankers no longer dare to go to the United States, or even travel abroad," the paper quoted him as saying.

Naville's remarks echo those of another unidentified senior private Swiss banker who earlier this week told Reuters news agency, "Maybe we'll all be taking our vacations in Ticino and Graubünden."

"There is definitely concern. Definitely," he added.

Industry warnings

The paper said Swiss banks and industry representatives were also increasingly warning bankers with US clients not to leave Switzerland.

The Swiss Bank Employees Association told le Matin Dimanche that it was advising all bankers who haver regularly visited clients in the US "to abstain from traveling."

In their hunt for tax evaders, US investigators are known to be probing a number of bankers in Switzerland, who are believed to have accepted tens of billions of undeclared dollars from US citizens.

Some 30 bankers are under investigation, according to Le Matin Dimanche.

The report comes just over a week after a former high-ranking UBS executive was arrested in Italy for allegedly helping US clients avoid taxes.

The banker, 54-year-old Raoul Weil, had been indicted by a US federal grand jury in 2008 on accusations of aiding US customers hide around $20 billion (15 billion euros) in assets from tax authorities.

"The United States has proven it can strike where and when it likes, and now with the help of European countries," the paper wrote about the arrest.

tj/ipj (AFP, Reuters)