UBS – so, so wrong

August 25th, 2009

Reuters has reported Swiss press coverage of UBS comments this weekend, It’s amazing stuff. A selection of the quotes are:

“The clients are not just harmless victims. They knew what they wanted to evade,” Kaspar Villiger, chairman of the world’s second-largest wealth manager, said in an interview with SonntagsBlick.

“But they trusted the bank that it would work. Now we have to correct that,” said Villiger, adding it was still not the responsibility of UBS to make sure clients paid their taxes.

Wrong guys. It is your job to detect money laundering through your accounts. Tax evasion is money laundering. Ergo, you have to check your customer is paying tax.

Villiger did not believe systematic tax evasion had been a problem in countries other than the United States, he said in a separate interview with NZZ am Sonntag, adding that legal action against former U.S. bankers did not affect the bank.

Does he think we’re stupid? You’d have to be to believe that.

“The personnel consequences have been solved in so far as those responsible no longer work for UBS. We have not discovered any misdeeds relevant to Swiss criminal law,” Villiger said. “That means we have no reason to take action against individual employees.”

Tax fraud is a criminal offence in Switzerland. If this was not fraud, what was?

Villiger did not expect the introduction of an automatic exchange of client data between countries in future.

“If Europe took unilateral action to introduce an information exchange and also forced this on Switzerland, money would flow to Asia in a big way,” he said.

Then we’d move against Asia next. It is  finite world.

“Swiss banks hid behind bank secrecy for years,” said Villiger. “The competition has got bigger with the disappearance of the difference between tax fraud and tax evasion.”

There never was such a distinction, except for Swiss law which created it to permit fraud.

All of which seems to suggest UBS is still in cloud cuckoo land.

Written by Richard Murphy

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