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SWI swissinfo.ch – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, swissinfo.ch has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.

Articles by Swissinfo.ch

US charges Swiss finance firm and six people with tax evasion

19 days ago

The US still suspects some elements of the Swiss financial centre of helping tax evaders. © Keystone / Ti-press / Alessandro Crinari
Six people and a Swiss financial services firm have been charged in the United States with helping clients evade taxes on $60 million (CHF56 million) of assets.
They are accused of setting up an elaborate scheme, known as the “Singapore Solution”, to funnel money out of Switzerland, through structures in Hong Kong and Singapore, and back into Swiss bank accounts.
Three US clients used the scheme between 2009 and 2014 to hide tens of millions of dollars from the US tax authorities, according to a Department of Justice (DoJ) indictmentExternal link that was unsealed on Tuesday.
The indictment alleges that the funds started off in

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UBS tax evasion appeal verdict delayed in Paris

21 days ago

UBS had appealed against both the original verdict and the size of the fine. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
Swiss bank UBS will have to wait until December 13 to see if its appeal against a French €4.5 billion (CHF4.9 billion) tax evasion penalty is successful.
The long-awaited verdict was due on Monday, but the Paris court postponed its decision because a judge is ill.
UBS was fined €3.7 billion and ordered to pay €800 million in damages during the original trial in 2019.
Switzerland’s largest bank was found to have solicited French tax evaders over a number of years and laundered the proceeds of the tax dodgers.
UBS is seeking to have the verdict overturned for lack of solid evidence. Even if the appeal court upholds the original verdict, it appears the financial

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Unions demand financial reward for efforts during Covid crisis

September 8, 2021

Trade union representatives argue employees are entitled to higher wages as the Swiss economy has picked up from the Covid crisis. Keystone/Anthony Anex
The Trade Union Federation has called for a blanket salary rise for all employees as the Swiss economy recovers from the Covid-19 crisis.
Switzerland’s main trade union umbrella group said employees should be entitled to a salary increase of at least 2% or CHF100 ($109) per month.
Trade union president Pierre-Yves Maillard said the raise would compensate for their efforts during the pandemic as well as for the growing inflation of around 1%.
Trade union chief economist Daniel Lampart said wage levels had stagnated over the past few years while productivity and profits had increased.
The federation, which

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Rising numbers of hikers and bikers boost Swiss economy

August 3, 2021

Almost 8% of Swiss residents over the age of 15 rode mountain bikes. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron
Numbers engaging in outdoor activities like walking, cycling or mountain biking continued to rise in Switzerland in 2019, the Federal Office for Roads (ASTRA) has reported. This is also good news for the economy.
Some 57% of Swiss residents labelled themselves as walkers in 2019, going on an average of 15 walks per year for an average of three hours each, ASTRA said in a report External linkpublished on Tuesday.
This amounted to a total of 200 million hours of walking for pleasure throughout the year, ASTRA said. People spent an average of CHF60 ($65.1) per day doing this, pumping a total of CHF3.6 billion ($3.9 billion) into the economy.
ASTRA also noted that 42% of

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Swiss bank pays up to settle German tax evasion probe

April 26, 2021

Some Germans appear to have used Migros Bank to hide assets from their home tax authorities. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally
Switzerland’s Migros Bank has agreed to pay €2.4 million (CHF2.65 million) to clear up cross-border tax evasion issues with Germany.
Migros is one of several Swiss banks that have shelled out a penalty to avoid prosecution in the neighbouring country. Other banks to have made such an arrangement in the past include UBS, Credit Suisse and Julius Bär.
The Migros Bank settlement also protects its employees from prosecution, it was announced on Monday.
In recent years, the Swiss banking sector has come under the microscope of several countries that have uncovered citizens hiding money in Swiss accounts to avoid paying taxes.
Investigations in Germany

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Swiss government expects fast economic recovery in 2021

March 11, 2021

The Swiss government has started to cautiously lift several Covid restrictions put in place in mid-January to reduce infection levels. Shops, museums and sports facilities re-opened from March 1 but restaurants and bars remain closed. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott
After a weak start to the year, Switzerland’s economy should recover rapidly from a heavy coronavirus-driven slump to grow by 3% in 2021, the government said on Thursday.
Gross domestic product will fall “significantly” in the first quarter of this year, after Covid-19 restrictions last December, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said in a statementExternal link.
But the economic situation should pick up quickly if the pandemic situation in Switzerland evolves positively.
“Should the

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Former Swiss central banker throws in towel to lead OECD

February 27, 2021

Hildebrand had to concede defeat having failed to generate enough support for his candidacy. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer
Former Swiss National Bank (SNB) chairman, Philipp Hildebrand, has pulled out of the race to become the next secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Hildebrand announced that he had withdrawn his candidacy on Twitter on Thursday evening. “It was a privilege and an honour to have been Switzerland’s nominee and to have gotten this far in the race,” he stated. “Throughout this effort, I relentlessly advocated for the need to promote a fair transition to a net-zero emission economy, to reform and invest in the global economy to yield higher and more inclusive growth, and to reinvigorate international

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Protecting livestock from predators costs Swiss taxpayers millions

February 7, 2021

Around 90% of federal funds go towards livestock protection measures like herd-protection dogs. Keystone / Peter Schneider
The federal government spends CHF4 million (around $4.4 million) a year to minimise the damage caused by predators like wolves and lynx.
Of this amount some three million Swiss francs are being invested in the protection of herds and flocks, the government revealed in its response to a question from a parliamentarian. Farmers receive around 70% of the funds for the breeding, training and upkeep of herd protection dogs, as well as for the installation of fences and night pens.
Around 20% of the funds are used to finance two specialist agencies with expertise in herd protection dogs and use of technical anti-predators tools. The remaining 10%

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Switzerland ranks highly in youth employment survey

October 26, 2017

A Swiss Post apprentice serves a customer in Basel
Switzerland has the second-best labour market for young Europeans behind Denmark, according to a ranking of over 30 countries.
Denmark came top, followed by Switzerland, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands in the latest KOF Youth Labour Market Index, which analysed the year 2015. The ranking is produced annually by the Economic Institute (KOF) at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ).
Switzerland scored 5.71 (on a scale of 1 to 7), comfortably above the European Union-28 average of 4.82. The index analyses the youth situation on the labour market using 12 indicators, subdivided into four categories: activity state, working conditions, education and

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Stories making the Swiss Sunday papers

October 23, 2017

Scepticism of Sion’s Winter Olympics bid, the cost of travelling around the country and Switzerland’s addiction to sugar – here are some of the leading stories making Swiss newspapers on Sunday.
Has the Sion Olympic bid committee shone a light on the true costs?
The bid for the 2026 Winter Olympics has seriously underestimated the cost of security for the event, according to some observers. The SonntagsZeitung has quoted experts calling the CHF300 million ($305 million) budget as “unrealistic”.
On Wednesday, the Swiss government threw its weight behind the Sion Olympic bid by pledging CHF1 billion towards the venture. But the article suggests the bid might not add up financially. Furthermore, a survey of 80

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Government against allowing foreign inter-city bus operators

October 20, 2017

German operator Flixbus was fined as passengers were using its international route for cheap transport within Switzerland
The Swiss cabinet is not in favour of liberalising the Swiss transport market by allowing foreign coach firms to offer inter-city services within Switzerland.
In a report released on Thursday, the seven-member body said it is not keen on going beyond the current legal framework, as it deems the quality of existing international transport options in Switzerland as satisfactory. This means that the current ban on cabotage – the right of foreign companies to transport goods or passengers between locations within the country – will continue.
“Indeed, such liberalisation would jeopardise the gains of

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Suspected Swiss tax spy trial underway in Germany

October 19, 2017

The German authorities bought 11 CDs with data about suspected German tax dodgers who held bank accounts in Switzerland
The trial in Frankfurt of a Swiss private investigator accused of spying on the tax authorities in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia is underway, but already temporarily suspended.
The 54-year-old allegedly acted on behalf of the Swiss intelligence service trying to uncover a series of thefts of CDs with data on suspected tax dodgers who held money in Swiss banks, according to German prosecutors.
The former police officer is also believed to have planted a mole in the tax authorities – an accusation the suspect has denied.
However, proceedings were suspended temporarily shortly after the

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Credit Suisse targeted for break-up by activist hedge fund

October 17, 2017

Tidjane ThiamTidjane Thiam, Credit Suisse CEO since 2015.

(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
A Swiss hedge fund is poised to launch an activist campaign to break up Credit Suisse, tapping into investor impatience with the progress of the bank’s turnround under chief executive Tidjane Thiam.
RBR Capital Advisors, supported by Gaël de Boissard, a former Credit Suisse investment bank co-head, is set to unveil the plan later this week at the JPMorgan Robin Hood investor conference in New York, according to people briefed on it.
Run by Rudolf Bohli, former analyst and trader, RBR has had success with activist campaigns against GAM, the asset manager, and Gategroup, the airline catering company now owned by China’s HNA. RBR

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Bern’s SkyWork could be grounded at end of month

October 16, 2017

SkyWork currently serves some 17 destinations from the Swiss capital

(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
SkyWork Airlines, which flies to various European destinations from Bern Airport, may be forced to cease operations by the end of October due to its unstable financial situation.
The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) has limited SkyWork’s operating permit to the end of this month because the company is unable to meet its financial commitments for its 2017 and 2018 winter schedule.
If the company can ensure a solid financial footing by the time its permit expires on October 31, it will be allowed to continue operations.
Airlines operating in Switzerland must demonstrate to the FOCA that their financial

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Airbnb has ‘impact’ on housing market

October 9, 2017

The app of Airbnb, a website for people to list, find and rent lodging, and other apps on a smart phone (Keystone)
Online accommodation platforms such as Airbnb have negative effects on the Swiss housing market and lead to fewer homes available for tenants and higher rental prices, a study has revealed.
According to a survey by the Inura Zurich Institute, commissioned by the Zurich Tenants’ Associationexternal link and published on Tuesday, Airbnb and similar online holiday rental platforms have particularly negative effects on cities popular with tourists which suffer from a shortage of long-term rentals.
The study showed the growth of Airbnb in three Swiss cities. In Basel, the number of apartments on the platform

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Swiss blue-chip CEOs dominate European wage ranking

October 7, 2017

Sergio Ermotti, CEO of Swiss bank UBS, took home €12.3 million last year, the survey said

(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
The chief executive officers of Switzerland’s top firms take home almost double the median salaries of Europe’s 100 biggest companies, according to a study by consultants Willis Towers Watson.
The Eurotop 100 study, presented on Thursday, studied the direct remuneration – not including pension or bonuses – of the CEOs of the 100 most highly capitalised blue-chip companies in Europe.
The median salary of CEOs from seven Swiss firms stood at €10.29 million (CHF11.79 million) last year (+15% on 2015), followed by Britain €7.44 million), Spain €5.63 million and Germany €5.06 million.
The Swiss

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Critical Swiss-German rail route back to normal

October 5, 2017

Commuters have been faced with long delays for weeks
Commuters using a busy stretch of railway between the Swiss city of Basel and Karlsruhe in Germany will be relieved to learn that services will return to normal on Monday following long-running repairs to a German tunnel.
The Rheintal (Rhine Valley) rail section is a critical south-north route in Europe, used particularly by freight trains as well as commuters. Trains have been subject to delays of up to an hour and a halfexternal link between Basel and Karlsruhe as commuters have to endure slower replacement services.
The route has been severely restricted since August 12 when part of the Rastatt tunnel in southern Germany caved in during maintenance work. This

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Watch industry unperturbed by new ‘Swiss made’ regulations

September 27, 2017

Watch executives are betting on growth in China
(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
The majority of Swiss watch executives surveyed by consulting firm Deloitte are positive about new rules requiring at least 60% of a watch’s manufactured costs to be incurred in Switzerland.
According to the Deloitte Swiss Watch Industry Study 2017external link, released on Wednesday, 44% of 60 watch executives surveyed consider the new “Swiss made” rules to be positive compared to 20% who believed they would have a negative effect. The new rules came into effect from January 2017 and raised the minimum Swiss share of a watch’s manufactured cost from 50% to 60%. Companies have a transition period of two years to implement the new

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Swiss abroad need Swiss bank accounts

September 19, 2017

Big Swiss banks should make it easier for Swiss people living abroad to maintain a bank account, finds the Senate.
Senators voted 23 to 14 on Tuesday in favour of a motion to make the five largest Swiss banks provide accounts under reasonable conditions. Six senators abstained from the vote, which came during the autumn parliamentary session in Bern.
Currently, Swiss nationals living abroad are subject to stricter banking rules which came into effect after the financial crisis of 2008. Because of the related paperwork concerning tax compliance, some banks have been charging higher fees, or even dropping clients altogether.
For example, Franz Boos, a Swiss living in Michigan, suddenly found himself without a bank

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Swiss Life under scrutiny of US authorities for tax evasion

September 14, 2017

Swiss Life denies it has flouted US regulations – Click to enlarge
Insurance firm Swiss Life has announced that it has been approached by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding its cross-border business with US clients.
After going after Swiss banks with a vengeance for abetting tax evasion, it appears that it is now the turn of the Swiss insurance industry to attract unfavourable attention from the DOJ. Products called “insurance wrappers” – offered by Swiss Life affiliates – could potentially have aroused suspicion. These are life insurance policies which are “wrapped” around an investment portfolio selected by a client. The portfolio is thus not tied to the client but to the policy and accumulates income at

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Red Cross launches new bond to tap private money

September 12, 2017

The ICRC is the world’s largest provider of physical rehabilitation services in developing countries. 
(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
The Swiss-run International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched the world’s first ‘Humanitarian Impact Bond’, which encourages private sector investment in humanitarian programmes.
The innovative “payment-by-results” model centres on a five-year private placement programme entitled the ‘Programme for Humanitarian Impact Investments’, or PHII, which will be executed with the support of the Swiss government and Swiss bank Lombard Odier.
A total of CHF26 million ($27.5 million), funded via initial payments from ‘social investors’ selected by Lombard Odier, will enable the ICRC

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Hard times continue for Swiss private banks

September 10, 2017

Numbers of banks in Switzerland have shrunk since the financial crisis.
Over half of private banks in Switzerland analysed by KPMG last year experienced net outflows of client cash. In a difficult period for finance, many could be forced to shut down or be bought out.
“Implement truly radical change, or continue to see performance deteriorate.” This was the message of a study released Thursday by audit group KPMG with the University of St. Gallen, evaluating the performance of 85 Swiss private banks.
Banks have cause for concern: having seen their numbers drop from 180 in 2005 to 114 today, last year cost-income ratios reached their highest levels, while regulatory clampdowns on tax evasion contributed to a

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Government plans to tackle high roaming charges

September 10, 2017

The changes would affect a range of telecoms services.
Switzerland is one of the most connected countries on the planet, but mobile and internet users in still grumble about lack of choice, unwelcome cold-calling from companies, and high roaming charges when travelling abroad.
The revised Telecommunications Actexternal link, sent by the cabinet to the parliament on Thursday, makes a stab at tackling some of these issues.
It notably outlines steps to reverse a trend towards the country becoming a high-price anomaly of roaming charges, surrounded on all sides by a European Union (EU) that has harmonized costs across the continent.
With no bilateral agreement on the cards with the EU, the cabinet is proposing to take

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Currywurst? That’ll be 0.0019 bitcoins please

September 9, 2017

Dozens of Swiss outlets sell their goods and services for bitcoin
The traditional favourite snack of late night revellers – the currywurst, or curried sausage – has just entered the digital world. It can now be paid for using the cryptocurrency bitcoin in Switzerland.
The Wurst & Moritz company has responded to repeated demand from customers to spend their hard-earned bitcoins in its restaurants in Zurich and Bern. With the price of a single bitcoin reaching nearly $5,000external link in recent days, that makes a currywurst worth 0.0019 bitcoins.
“We have reached a tipping point in the number of recurring bitcoin users in Switzerland. So we decided to be one of the early adopters in servicing that demand. There is no

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Nestlé Skin Health to shed almost 200 jobs

September 3, 2017

Nestlé Skin Health plans to transfer manufacturing activities from the Egerkingen site to manufacturing facilities around the world(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
Nestlé Skin Health will cease operations at its Egerkingen factory in canton Solothurn and move manufacturing activities abroad, threatening 190 positions.
“Production volumes in Egerkingen are and have been very low, resulting in underutilisation of assets and hence additional pressure on manufacturing cost,” the company, which creates skin, hair and nail products, said in a statement on Thursday.
It did not foresee a significant volume increase over the next years in Egerkingen, “even taking into account growth forecasts for markets served by the

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Highest Swiss Property Prices Recorded in Zurich

September 2, 2017

Zurich remains the dearest location for Swiss property at CHF12,250 ($13,000) per square metre. However, houses in Lucerne have gained the most in value over the past decade, with one square metre costing CHF8,500, up 82% on 2007.
In particular demand are homes in lake regions, according to a report published on Thursday by the federal institute of technology ETH Zurich and the online comparison service Comparis. The area with the second-highest increase in property prices over the past ten years was Horgen, overlooking Lake Zurich, where a square metre has climbed by 80% to CHF11,000.

Property in Lucerne has appreciated the most over the past decade

(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
New arrivals in this year’s top

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Spending cuts for asylum seekers proposed

September 2, 2017

After last year’s vote to speed up procedures in national centres, the government now plans to cut subsidies for rejected asylum seekers. (Keystone)
The government wants to cut its financial contributions to asylum seekers as part of efforts to tighten the asylum procedure in Switzerland.
The payments for individuals, currently around CHF6,000 ($6,312), could be reduced by a third, according to the Swiss News Agency.
The contribution, paid by the national government to the cantonal authorities responsible for basic support of rejected asylum seekers, could even be limited to CH400 when an applicant can be sent to back another of the 32 member countries of the Dublin accordexternal link, which includes the European

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Cabinet Called on to Join EU’s no-roaming Charges Deal

September 1, 2017

Any deal would have significant implications for Switzerland’s largest telecom, Swisscom. (© KEYSTONE / GAETAN BALLY)
The cantonal government of Graubünden has demanded that the cabinet sign Switzerland up to European Union rules abolishing roaming charges.
Without such an agreement, the Swiss tourist industry is at a disadvantage, the Graubünden government said in a letter sent last week to Swiss president, Doris Leuthard, according to the Swiss News Agency.
The letter stated that Switzerland’s partners in the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) who are also not in the EU – Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland – had all signed up to the deal, which came into force in June. This has put Switzerland at a competitive

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Bank lobby group sees hope for shrinking Swiss sector

September 1, 2017

Martin Hess believes Swiss banking fortunes can lift despite ongoing challenges
(Keystone) – Click to enlarge
The Swiss banking sector shrank once again last year in terms of banks, profits, share of offshore wealth under management and number of employees. The Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) nevertheless believes there are positives to be found amidst the bleak figures.
“In an environment where banks have to cope with negative interest rates, strict regulatory requirements and strong international competition, this can be considered a positive result,” said SBA chief economist Martin Hess on Thursday. “This speaks for the resilience of the banks in Switzerland and their ability to adapt.”
The raw figures show that

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Swiss Agency Reports Major Breach of Online Credentials

August 31, 2017

The number of cyber-attacks in Switzerland is reportedly on the rise (Keystone)
Around 21,000 passwords and personal details used to access online services have been stolen and could be used illegally, Switzerland’s cybercrime monitoring centre has reported.
The Reporting and Analysis Centre for Information Assurance (MELANI) said on Tuesday that a confidential source had sent copies of the stolen data to the cybercrime centre. It had no information on who sent the data or where it had originated, simply declaring that it was in the hands of “unauthorised third parties”.
The agency warned that stolen passwords and account details could be used for illegal activities such as fraud, blackmail or phishing.

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