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Swiss Banking Privacy

Confidentiality

Swiss Banking confidentiality and secrecy has been in force since as far back as banks can trace their origins, and officially codified as part of Swiss laws, with severe criminal penalties for any violations, since the Swiss Banking Law of 1934. This law was enacted as a direct result of French Socialist-fervor pressure, and German Nazi attempts at intrusion. The Swiss take their clients’ confidentiality quite seriously. Swiss bankers are under strict fiduciary obligation (much like our “attorney-client privilege”) to maintain any information about a client’s account strictly confidential, with the only exceptions being strictly-provable criminal inquiries–and even these are quite rarely granted. This reflects the long-standing tradition of Swiss personal privacy, and any violation of banking secrecy constitutes an offense that by law requires public prosecution and results in official criminal proceedings. Needless to say, these are among the strictest banking confidentiality laws in the world.

Another item worthy of note is that an accusation of tax evasion alone is not sufficient to force a Swiss bank to lift its veil of secrecy. This is because failure to report income or assets is not considered a criminal offense in Switzerland, it is considered a misdemeanor, and hence does not fall under the “provable criminal activity” or criminal intent exceptions that would allow the veil to be lifted. As such, neither the Swiss government, nor any other government, can obtain information about a depositor’s account without first convincing a Swiss judge that a serious crime (felony) has been committed by the depositor that would be punishable by the Swiss Penal Code.

The same holds true for civil matters, such as probate litigation or divorce–the banking secrecy veil will not be lifted for any of these types of what are considered to be “civil” matters by the Swiss government. Swiss bank accounts set the bar for privacy and protection.

Numbered Bank Accounts

Long the lore of spy novels and fiction, there really is an extra layer of strict confidentiality available to those seeking it in the form of a “numbered account.” These accounts are afforded an extra level of privacy because these accounts are tied to a number instead of a name, with the name of the entity establishing the account available only to a few senior bank officers. These accounts can be quite useful, for example, to corporations looking to make acquisitions or transactions without prematurely alerting their competition or the media of their intent. These accounts are not completely anonymous, however, and the information required to open such an account is no different from that of an ordinary account, with the exception that not all bank employees, nor prying eyes, have access to the account holder’s identity.

Additional Measures

Swiss banking is synonymous with privacy and banking security. Sometimes, that is not enough by itself and there are measures that can be taken to increase privacy. For example, establishing a bank account under the name of an offshore company or corporation is extremely important so that any transaction “paper trail” is identified with the business name, not the bank account signer.

Swiss law is strict with regards to banking privacy. Anything short of a severe criminal offense will result in absolute privacy of banking information to third parties, including foreign governments. Switzerland considers tax evasion as a civil offense and not a crime, therefore, not an offense that will result in a privacy breech. US people are taxed on worldwide income. So, whereas the bank may not reveal tax information, as a responsible company, we recommend that you comply fully with the tax laws of your jurisdiction.

Banking in Switzerland should be conducted properly so that all of the advantages are maximized. This should be done with a trusted provider that offers the features and security for which you are seeking. OffshoreCompany.com has assisted with thousands of banking needs and can design a privacy plan that maximizes all of the security and privacy strengths that offshore companies and Swiss bank accounts provide.