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Switzerland to banks: Come clean to U.S.

Swiss banks should come clean to U.S. officials conducting a tax probe before an end-of-year deadline and face up to resultant penalties, or risk more costly prosecution later, Switzerland's financial regulator warned Friday.

Both the United States and Switzerland are eager to draw a line under probes into undeclared money wealthy Americans have stowed in tax havens.

But a government-brokered program, open to a host of second-tier Swiss banks, lapses next month.

Under the deal, banks are expected to disclose previously hidden information and face penalties of up to 50 percent of the value of the assets they managed on behalf of Americans.

The matter remains a priority for U.S. officials, who are investigating Swiss banks with a view to seeking criminal charges for those that don't come clean, according to the head of the U.S. Justice Department's tax division.

The timing of the Swiss regulator's comments, shortly before the deadline, raises the question of whether fewer banks than expected are preparing to come clean.

-- Reuters

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