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Swiss diplomat: no talks on Credit Suisse cases

By Kim Dixon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Swiss government has not waded into the U.S. government's tax evasion cases against Credit Suisse bankers and clients, Switzerland's ambassador to the United States told Reuters on Friday.

Swiss bankers, identified by sources familiar with the cases as working for Credit Suisse, were charged in February with aiding Americans in dodging taxes, among the signs the government is expanding its probe into institutions that smooth the way for offshore tax evasion by the wealthy.

"There are discussions going on a broader level to find solutions to common issues, not on individual cases," said Manuel Sager, the Swiss ambassador to the United States. "We're not discussing individual cases at any level."

Credit Suisse has maintained that it obeys all tax laws and that it is not the target of any probe.

Rival UBS AG paid $780 million in 2009 and consented last year to hand over information about nearly 5,000 U.S. accounts to settle government cases against the Swiss bank, which admitted it lured Americans with the promise of tax secrecy.

After the United States closed its long-running case against UBS, eyes turned to other targets of U.S. tax prosecutors.

Many believe the targeting of Credit Suisse clients and bankers by U.S. prosecutors signals they are looking at that bank as well.

The Swiss government was heavily involved in negotiations that led to an ultimate settlement with UBS. A deal to transfer client names ultimately had to be approved by the Swiss Parliament due to privacy laws in the Alpine nation.

"Any new agreement (with another bank) would require parliamentary approval," Sager said.

In an indictment filed in February four current and former Credit Suisse bankers were charged with encouraging Americans to use offshore credit cards and to move money to other banks from Israel to Hong Kong.


A separate Credit Suisse banker, identified as Christos Bagios, was released on bond last month, charged with conspiracy and fraud in connection with the offshore accounts at UBS, where he also has worked.

Also last month, a Credit Suisse client pleaded guilty in U.S. federal court to evading taxes.

"From the Credit Suisse standpoint, they have to be concerned he doesn't roll over and say 'listen, this was coming from a lot higher up than me,' " said Jay Weill, a former U.S. attorney who now counsels wealthy clients.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice said that UK bank HSBC in India helped potentially thousands of Americans dodge taxes, another sign of the government's probe.

The government wants authority to serve a "John Doe" summons on HSBC to obtain the names of an unknown number of people who may have engaged in tax fraud. Prosecutors employed the same strategy in the case against Swiss bank UBS.

Weill and other attorneys say the government is likely now building a case to serve a similar summons on Credit Suisse.

(Reporting by Kim Dixon, editing by Matthew Lewis)