Buying Bank Secrecy

According to the German Finance Minister, Germany is prepared to purchase stolen data containing information in relation to Swiss bank accounts. Other European countries, including the Netherlands and Austria, also appear to have interest in this information. The Swiss government is refusing to co-operate with its European counterparts in any investigation that may arise because of this information.

Given the bank secrecy laws in Switzerland and the trillions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts, any information that governments can acquire may be extremely lucrative from their perspective. However, the fact that this information may be generated through criminal means should be worrisome. Though the tax authorities in each country are attempting to catch possible tax evaders, the use of illegal tactics to acquire this information should not be condoned. We don’t accept the “it takes a criminal to catch a criminal” philosophy in the criminal justice system, so we shouldn’t accept it in this context. The ends don’t justify the means.

One possible solution is for Germany, Canada, the US, and other interested governments to purchase bank secrecy from Switzerland. Essentially, these governments would pay Switzerland to repeal their bank secrecy laws. The repeal would allow these governments access to banking records without purchasing information from criminals and individuals with money in Swiss bank accounts can either file voluntary disclosures or take their chances in another jurisdiction with bank secrecy laws.