Switzerland has long been a global center for the wealth management industry, housing around $2 trillion, or 27 percent, of global offshore wealth. Since 1934, Swiss bankers and regulators have resisted the efforts of foreign tax regulators, including the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the US, to obtain information about secret Swiss bank accounts. They claimed compliance with Swiss law and the need to protect the privacy of their customers, as Swiss private bankers smuggled US taxpayer wealth from the US to Switzerland in all sorts of creative ways. From bundles of cash hidden inside rolls of newspaper to setting up shell companies, to jamming diamonds into toothpaste tubes, Swiss bankers aided tens of thousands of wealthy American clients to evade US taxes through secret offshore bank accounts.
After giving up on their famous banking secrecy laws with a little nudging from the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the IRS Criminal Investigations Division (IRS-CI) which shut down the oldest private bank and slapped the largest and most prominent Swiss banks with billions in fines for aiding in US tax evasion, Switzerland was on the verge of losing its competitive edge over rival financial markets.
But don’t count Switzerland out just yet. By establishing a global hub for virtual currencies known as the “Crypto Valley” in Zug, and the implementation of forward-looking regulation by the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), Switzerland is emerging as one of “the world’s leading ecosystems for crypto, Blockchain, and distributed ledger technologies” according to Oliver Bussmann, the founder of the Crypto Valley Association. Johann Schneider-Ammann, the head of the Swiss Department of Economic Affairs, points out that the country is becoming a “crypto nation” for the digital revolution with a flourishing initial coin offerings (ICO) market.