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Swiss Agree to Transfer Encrypted Documents to U.S. Authorities

Feb. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Switzerland agreed to transfer about 20,000 encrypted documents to authorities in the U.S. as the two countries work toward settling a dispute over tax evasion.

Switzerland may help decode the names should the two nations find a comprehensive solution to the dispute, Roland Meier, a spokesman for the Swiss Finance Ministry, said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News.

The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating 11 financial institutions in Switzerland, including Credit Suisse Group AG, suspected of helping Americans hide money from the Internal Revenue Service. The U.S. and Switzerland are in talks to resolve the probe of offshore tax evasion.

Seven financial firms, including Swiss banks and the local units of foreign companies, handed over data, such as e-mails, travel plans and details of internal procedures, to the U.S. by the end of last month, Tages-Anzeiger reported today, without saying where it got the information. Employee and customer names were blacked out, the Zurich-based newspaper said.

Wegelin & Co., the 270-year-old private bank, became the first Swiss lender to face criminal charges in a broadening U.S. crackdown on offshore firms suspected of helping Americans evade taxes.

Wegelin helped Americans hide more than $1.2 billion in assets and evade U.S. taxes, according to an indictment filed yesterday in federal court in New York. The new charges expand on earlier ones filed Jan. 3 against three bankers at Wegelin’s Zurich branch accused of conspiring to help U.S. clients cheat on their taxes.

Richard Strassberg, a lawyer who represents the bank in the U.S., declined to comment.

To contact the reporter on this story: Giles Broom in Geneva at gbroom@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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