Swiss move help­ful

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

At the Euro­pean Fi­nanceMin­is­ters’ meet­ing on Tues­day, Switzer­land, the world’s largest off­shore fi­nan­cial cen­ter, agreed to sign a global stan­dard on the au­to­matic ex­change of in­for­ma­tion on for­eign­ers’ bank ac­counts, a move that has been widely in­ter­preted as lift­ing the cen­turies-old veil of se­crecy that has made Swiss bank ac­counts so at­trac­tive to those look­ing to “hide” their money.

The move is a big step for­ward for gov­ern­ments that have mounted a con­certed at­tack on tax eva­sion in the wake of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Swiss co­op­er­a­tion in open­ing up bank ac­counts is also good news for China’s on­go­ing anti-cor­rup­tion ef­forts as it will be much eas­ier for the au­thor­i­ties to col­lect in­for­ma­tion on over­seas ac­counts re­lat­ing to cor­rupt of­fi­cials, said a Bei­jing News col­umn, which ad­vo­cated do­mes­tic agencies pos­i­tively co­or­di­nate with Swiss banks to gather in­for­ma­tion on the Chi­nese own­ers of bank ac­counts in Switzer­land.

For a long time, cor­rupt of­fi­cials and il­le­gal businesses world­wide have con­sid­ered Switzer­land a safe haven for hid­ing their ill-got­ten as­sets.

So the move is bad news to cor­rupt of­fi­cials and other crim­i­nals and good news for any­body fight­ing cor­rup­tion.

It is re­ported that Swiss banks have only agreed to au­to­mat­i­cally ex­change in­for­ma­tion for tax pur­poses, but ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that in­ves­ti­ga­tion of tax eva­sion of­ten re­veals clues to cor­rup­tion.

It is of course un­known how many cor­rupt Chi­nese of­fi­cials have put money in Swiss banks, but the lat­est move will un­doubt­edly prove to be an im­por­tant chan­nel for fight­ing cor­rup­tion. To make the best use of this pre­cious op­por­tu­nity, Chi­nese anti-cor­rup­tion agencies should be proac­tive.

The rel­e­vant agencies need to strengthen co­or­di­na­tion with Switzer­land on ac­tual cases, as ac­cord­ing to global agree­ments China may ob­tain more ac­count in­for­ma­tion.

In fact, this de­vel­op­ment should in­spire China to seek in­for­ma­tion on global ac­counts.

In the United States, the For­eign Ac­count Tax Act in­tro­duced in 2010 “tar­gets non-com­pli­ance by US tax­pay­ers with for­eign ac­counts”; China can take sim­i­lar mea­sures to avoid cor­rupt of­fi­cials laun­der­ing their money through over­seas ac­counts.

Switzer­land is not the only safe haven, and oth­ers are still in­sist­ing on main­tain­ing their se­crecy poli­cies. But it is ex­pected that the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-oper­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment will ap­ply more pres­sure on them. In the mean­time, the move by Switzer­land marks a great step for­ward.

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