Timur Abdusamatov, Alliance School of Law, Alliance University, Bangalore
For decades Switzerland has been considered as the ‘grandfather’ of the world’s tax havens. It is one of the largest offshore financial centres in the world and one of the world’s biggest secrecy jurisdictions, also vastly known as “tax havens”.1 For numerous reasons Swiss Banks are favoured by many, some of the benefits include; low levels of financial risk and very high levels of privacy.
The concept of banking secrecy in Switzerland was first codified with the Banking Act of 1934, therefore making it illegal to disclose client’s information to third parties without the client’s consent, which favoured many individuals involved in criminal activities to store their proceedings in these banks. A London-based Tax Justice Network ranked Switzerland's banking sector as the "most corrupt" in the world in 2018 due to Switzerland’s large offshore banking industry and very strict secrecy laws. The ranking attempts to measure how much assistance the country's legal systems provide to money laundering, and to protecting corruptly obtained wealth.3 Swiss banks have been involved in a number of criminal cases and as a result had to pay out billions in penalty. Swiss secrecy laws for decades have attracted criminals around the world to store their assets in these banks and use these laws to avoid taxes. However, in the recent years, international pressure has forced Switzerland to sign agreements which compel its banks to exchange information about its clients. One of such agreement is the AEOI which has over 45 countries (including India) agreeing to the common reporting standard.