MOSCOW - Russia and Switzerland have signed an agreement that will give the Russian Finance Ministry access to information about Russian citizens accounts in Switzerland.
The agreement, signed over the weekend, formalizes an existing information exchange accord between the two counties regarding Russian citizens with Swiss bank accounts.
Switzerland has long been a safe harbor for investors. But in the wake of the financial crisis, it has been forced to sign agreements with a number of countries regarding the disclosure of bank account information.
The Swiss government was forced to take this unpopular step after the G20 summit in April of 2009, in the middle of the financial crisis. As a result of the meeting, Switzerland was placed on a so-called grey list of countries who have formally agreed to share financial information if other governments request it in relation to a tax investigation, but have not actually fulfilled their obligations under those agreements.
According to Swiss media, in order to get off the black list, the Swiss government will need to sign at least 12 bilateral agreements regarding information disclosure. At the moment, Switzerland has signed agreements with the U.S., Denmark, Norway, France, Mexico and Luxembourg, and some Swiss banks have made additional agreements with governments on their own.
The latest agreement allows the Russian Finance Ministry to obtain information about potential tax cheats if there is sufficient suspicion of tax evasion or fraud. The agreement was signed just before Mondays resignation of Russian Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin, following his criticism of President Dimitry Medvedevs candidacy to become Prime Minister after the next presidential elections that are expected to return Vladimir Putin to the top job.
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