Swiss bankers afraid to leave their stoop as US probe continues

A United States investigation into overseas tax evasion has zeroed in on 11 Swiss banks, resulting in the arrest of several high-profile bankers and revealing the names of thousands of American clients.

Bankers and even secretaries have since been advised not to leave the country, which might lead to their arrest as the probe continues.

Big banks, including HSBC and Credit Suisse, have provided approximately 10,000 employee names to U.S. authorities. Some banks say they are afraid to go the way of Wegelin & Co., the 270-year old-firm that broke up in January after being charged by the U.S. with helping Americans hide $1.2 billion in taxes from the IRS.

Rudolf Wyss, former deputy director of the Swiss Federal Department of Justice, made it clear to Geneva-based bankers that, if they had advised clients on U.S. soil or taken on a U.S. client from Swiss bank UBS, they are better off stranded in the Alps.

“If there is an international arrest warrant [bankers] could be arrested, for instance, in France or Italy and then extradited to the States.” Wyss said.

The Swiss Bank Employees Association has even established a hotline to advise terrified bankers fearful of being detained.

Bankers still craving adventure are free to visit Tunisia, the Maldives or Vanuatu, which have no extradition treaty with the U.S.

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