Swiss Banks Under Fire for Sharing Client Data with CIA for Anti-Terror Probes

By Thea Felicity

Apr 22, 2024 10:40 AM EDT

Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz
Swiss Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz holds documents during the National Council's winter session at the Parliament in Bern, Switzerland on December 8, 2008. The parliament is to discuss a government rescue package for the country's financial system, including a bailout plan for the leading UBS bank. Several political parties have approved the National Bank's cash injection of 6 billion Swiss francs (5 billion US dollars or 3.9 billion euros) and 54 billion US dollars (42 billion euros) government loan conditional on additional measures and reforms of the banks. However, parliament's options are very limited. It is expected to rubberstamp the government's decision announced late in October.
(Photo : FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

Swiss banks have been heavily criticized for unlawfully sharing banking data with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, according to Switzerland's top data protection official. 

Per CNBC, Hanspeter Thuer emphasized that these banks, known for their commitment to client privacy, should have alerted customers about the possibility of their data being passed on to third parties, mainly when using the SWIFT money-transfer service based in Belgium. 

SWIFT, facilitating transactions worth $6 trillion daily among 7,800 financial institutions, complied with U.S. requests post-9/11 for anti-terror probes. 

Specifically, Thuer's concern revolves around the potential leakage of information to jurisdictions with less stringent data protection laws, advocating for standardized rules between the U.S. and Europe. 

Despite criticism, Switzerland's Finance Minister, Hans-Rudolf Merz, defended the decision, stating it did not violate Swiss sovereignty or banking secrecy laws.

READ NEXT: Swiss Banking Giant UBS Intends to Broaden Business Footprint in the US

Swiss Banks Sharing Data to CIA

Whether Swiss banks should provide information to the CIA is usually a matter of internal process. On one hand, sharing information with law enforcement agencies could potentially aid in combating terrorism and other criminal activities. 

However, it raises concerns about privacy rights and protecting sensitive financial data. 

Ultimately, both parties should be considered, especially their legal obligations, privacy rights, and the potential consequences of sharing such information.

READ MORE: Hunter Biden's 'Sugar Brother' Kevin Morris Blocked by CIA from Being Interviewed by Feds During Tax Probe, Whistleblower Alleges

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