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UBS faces pressure from US on identities

UNITED States authorities are targeting client visits by Swiss-based bankers from UBS in their efforts to identify US citizens with accounts at the bank who may have evaded tax, a Swiss newspaper said yesterday.

US tax authorities want to force UBS to disclose the identity of an estimated 52,000 US holders of secret Swiss accounts suspected of dodging taxes, even though this breaches Swiss bank secrecy laws.

A possible compromise involving the names of account-holders visited by Swiss bankers would identify about 10,000 people, Swiss weekly Sonntags-Zeitung said.

A UBS spokesman declined to comment, noting the negotiations were a matter for the two governments. A Swiss Justice Department spokesman said the two sides had agreed not to comment while negotiations continued.

A trial against UBS had been scheduled to start in Miami on July 13, but presiding judge Alan Gold agreed to delay it until August 3 to allow time for a settlement.

Last Friday a source familiar with the situation said talks between Switzerland and the US to end the tax row could stretch past the August 3 deadline.

A status call between Gold and lawyers from UBS and the US Internal Revenue Service on Wednesday could be an opportunity for an announcement of a delay. A meeting between Swiss Finance Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also scheduled on Friday.

The challenge for the two sides is to find a way for the Swiss government to hand over enough information to satisfy the US tax authorities without infringing Switzerland's strict laws protecting banking secrecy.

Sonntags-Zeitung, citing a US source familiar with the talks, said one solution would be to use the existing double taxation deal between the two nations, which allows Switzerland to give official help to the US in a criminal probe.


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