Wegelin & Co, the oldest Swiss private bank, said Thursday it would shut its doors permanently after more than two and a half centuries following its guilty plea to charges of helping wealthy Americans evade taxes through secret accounts.
The plea , in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, marks the death knell for one of Switzerland's most storied banks. It is also a potentially major turning point in the battle by U.S. authorities against Swiss bank secrecy.
A major question was left hanging by the plea: Has the bank turned over, or does it plan to disclose, names of American clients to U.S. authorities? That is a key demand in a broad U.S. investigation of tax evasion through Swiss banks.
"It is unclear whether the bank was required to turn over American client names who held secret Swiss bank accounts," said Jeffrey Neiman, a former federal prosecutor involved in other Swiss bank investigations who is now in private law practice in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
"What is clear
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