A Brief History Of: Swiss Banks

Erich Hartmann / Magnum

Swiss banks' anonymity and confidentiality have attracted streams of illicit cash from around the world.

Along with Chocolate and Cheese, Switzerland is synonymous with secrecy: it's long been known as a place to put your money if you don't like taxes or you commit crimes for a living. Not an entirely fair characterization, to be sure, but it's a safe bet that the decision by Swiss bank UBS to turn over the names of some accused tax evaders has a few of the world's richest criminals a bit nervous. ( See 25 people to blame for the financial crisis. )

Switzerland's tradition of financial discretion goes back at least to the 17th century. In the wake...

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