No Bin Laden Assets In Switzerland: Banker
Special to CNBC.com
Osama bin Laden did not put any of his billions of dollars in assets into Swiss banks, Patrick Odier, the Swiss Bankers Association chairman, told CNBC Wednesday.
"After the dramatic events of September 2001, Switzerland has been one of the most actively involved countries contributing to the search for terrorist-linked assets," said Odier.
"Should there be any asset linked to bin Laden in Switzerland we would have known, as we would have known in the US, so I can be convinced there are none."
However, Swiss banks, with their reputation for protecting clients' assets, do hold sovereign, central bank and institutional funds deposited during the former regimes of Hosni Mubarek in Eqypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and current Libyan strongman Muammar Ghadafi.
Odier said his country was the first to freeze those assets to determine if they are legitimate.
"As long as the regime is in place, it is considered to be legitimate," Odier said. "When there is a change [in regime] we make very sure in Switzerland that we protect those assets from going anywhere else until they are proven to still be legitimate."
But it's not just world leaders parking their money in Swiss banks with their reputation for privacy—individuals have also been making their deposits as a way of evading US taxes. In August 2009, UBS reached a deal with the US government to settle American demands for the identities of suspected tax dodgers.
Odier said that while Switzerland has a reputation for protecting assets, Switzerland "is not the country where assets should be hidden."
He downplayed the UBS matter, saying, "You can’t make of an exceptional case a rule, and I think in this case...[it] was a fully reported occurrence. This is not acceptable and was not acceptable and was corrected."
However, he said a bill before the US Congress, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act — known as the Fat Cat bill—to make sure Americans pay their taxes on overseas holdings around the world needs to be changed.
He said the bill would deter financial institutions from looking at capital institutions in the US, keep US private and corporate clients from being accepted into foreign banks and be "extraordinarily costly to the financial institutions" to implement.
"We are trying to propose a way, as we agree with the [bill's] objective, to make sure that it could be implemented in a pragmatic and less costly way," he said, giving no details.