It's Goodbye, Switzerland, as the Profits from Tax Evasion Disappear

August 17th, 2011

Goodbye Switzerland


As the Wall Street Journal notes this morning:

It’s time to move on to other shores for European banks serving wealthy clients: Switzerland will remain famous for its cheese but not for its banking secret anymore.

Monday ABN Amro, the Netherlands’ third biggest bank, announced the decision to sell its private banking operations in Switzerland to local operator Union Bancaire Privee.

The move can be seen as the start of a migration of smaller non-Swiss banks from a country which was the perfect place for tax evaders for decades.

And why are they doing that? The WSJ says:

A recent Swiss-German tax deal is expected to increase the sector’s costs by around CHF500 million, putting additional strain on many smaller and medium-sized banks in Switzerland and operations of non-Swiss banks as well.

The tax-deal, as well as the strong Swiss franc against the euro, bites into profits because serving wealthy customers is expensive.  It looks more profitable to invest money in other places.

And as they note:

The timing for ABN Amro’s move wasn’t bad at all. Due to increasing costs in a still highly competitive market–at least for now–potential buyers are willing to pay reasonable prices to reach scale. Industry observers expect similar deals in the future.

Let’s put that another way: these banks have always invested in tax evasion (as they continue toi do in tax havens around the world). And it’s a cold, calculated decision to do so. As I and the Tax Justice Network have always said.

A greater admission of this fact could not be found.

* Image license: Some rights reserved by Evamaria N

Written by Richard Murphy

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