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Banking

Oldest Swiss bank to close after guilty plea

Swiss bank Wegelin has said it will close down its operations after the end of US court procedures against the country's oldest lender. The bank has pleaded guilty to charges of aiding large-scale tax evasion.

The oldest Swiss bank, Wegelin, said it would soon shut its doors permanently after more than two and a half centuries of its existence as a private lender.

The announcement came after the bank pleaded guilty in US District Court in Manhattan to a string of charges of assisting Americans in evading taxes though secret accounts. The move marked a turning point in a battle by US authorities against Swiss bank secrecy.

"Once the matter is finally concluded, Wegelin will cease to operate as a bank," the lender said in a statement released by its headquarters in St. Gallen.

Hefty fines

The DAPD news agency reported on Friday that Wegelin had agreed to disclose the names of US clients and their account details, should US investigators request them for follow-up tax evasion trials.

Wegelin conceded it had aided Americans in dodging taxes on at least $1.2 billion (907 million euros) between 2002 and 2010. The bank agreed to pay 457.8 million euros to the United States in restitution and fines.

The fate of three Wegelin bankers who were indicted by US authorities in January of this year remains unclear. Under criminal procedural rules, the cases against Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei and Roger Keller are still pending.

hg/pfd   (Reuters, AFP, dapd)