Swiss lawmakers yesterday took upon themselves to safeguard the citadel of the country's secretive banking system as they rejected a deal in parliament to hand over 4,450 names of wealthy Americans who held secret offshore accounts with Swiss bank UBS.
Switzerland's lower house rejected a bill to approve the settlement arrived at between the governments of Switzerland, the US and UBS in August 2009, where the bank had agreed to reveal the names of 4,450 American clients suspected of tax evasion. (See: US breaches Switzerland's banking citadel; UBS to reveal 4,450 names)
The rejection of the bill, which was voted 104 to 76, with 16 abstentions, came even as Switzerland's upper house had last week voted for it.
The bill would now go back to the upper house, which could decide to send it once more to the lower house for a fresh vote.
But prior to that, lawmakers will have to be sure that it would not be rejected once again and the lower house parliamentarians would have to convinced that it is in the best interest of the country that the bill is passed.
But Switzerland has only until 18 June to ratify the bill as the summer parliamentary session ends at that time.
Even if the lower house passes the bill, there is always the risk that the bill may be put to a popular nationwide referendum, just like Iceland did this year, when it was forcibly asked to repay money to the UK and the Netherlands for its banks, Kaupthing Singer & Friedlander and IceSave collapsing during the global financial crisis.