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Zurich: Where the world's richest come for banking

Last updated on: October 4, 2011 15:50 IST

Zurich: Where the world's richest come for banking

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Snehesh Alex Philip in Zurich


If Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar is full of jewellery shops and Delhi's Chandni Chowk has got hundreds of saree merchants vying for customers' attention, Zurich has got a street full of Swiss banks -- known for their secrecy veils.

As the black money allegedly stashed away by Indians in these Swiss banks continues to generate controversies, the city of bankers lives up to its reputation with both sides of its so-called bank street dotted with numerous bank offices and branches.

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Image: Lightning strikes over the headquarters of Swiss bank Credit Suisse d in Zurich.
Photographs: Reuters
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But unlike the congested Indian markets, the street here is full of modern and sophisticated glass buildings, considered as favourites of those who want to pack off their millions away without getting taxed.

The banks, known for their high-level secrecy, are said to have been used since long by businessmen and politicians across the world to park their money, sans any scrutiny by tax authorities of their respective countries.

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Image: A woman takes a picture in front of the branch office of Swiss bank UBS at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich.
Photographs: Reuters
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Zurich: Where the world's richest come for banking

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From small to really big ones, Zurich offers banks for everyone's need and they mostly owe their tag of being famous to the two words - security and privacy.

Switzerland is considered to have one of the highest level of banking secrecy in the world. Banks within the country are legally bound to keep any and all information about their customers purely private, unless there are proofs of criminality on the part of their customers.

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Image: An aerial view shows the headquarters of Swiss banks UBS (front L) and Credit Suisse (C) at the Paradeplatz square in Zurich.
Photographs: Reuters
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No federal government or even agency may actually access the accounts in normal circumstances and one of the favourites of the Swiss accounts seems to be the 'numbered bank account', in which an account holder is just known by just few numerical digits. Besides, there are also high-security lockers on offer.

But the tide seems to be reversing now. The governments across the globe are in talks with Switzerland to get their hands on account holders' details.

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India too has recently signed the amending protocol to the Double Taxation (Avoidance) Agreement (DTAA) with Switzerland.

Though the agreement was signed earlier, in Switzerland, after it is introduced in Parliament, it has to wait for 100 days before it comes up as a ratified document.

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Image: A safe box is pictured at the safe room of the Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB) at the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich.
Photographs: Reuters
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Thereafter there will be exchange of letter between Switzerland and India. The 100-day limit will expire on October 6.

On Monday, India signed an MoU on financial dialogue with Switzerland that aims to pave the way for greater cooperation between the countries' tax authorities.

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Photographs: Reuters
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Zurich: Where the world's richest come for banking

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But the show goes on in Zurich, which is not just about banking. The city remains buzzing with activity till the wee hours, although most parts of the country do go to sleep early.

"It is because during the day everyone is interested in making money but in the night, everyone wants to socialise, have a drink and make more contacts," said Martin, a limousine driver here.

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Image: People walk on Zurich's main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse.
Photographs: Reuters
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Besides, it has long been a preferred place for shooting of Bollywood movies and is also a fine centre of shopping and dining.

A large shopping street offers you the best of the designer wear that money can buy. A number of restaurants are also here.

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Image: A vintage Bentley limousine is parked in front of the Savoy Hotel Baur En Ville in Zurich.
Photographs: Reuters
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But to enjoy the real city, one has to drive to old Zurich to get a taste of excellent outside dinning. The city streets are like a showroom of the latest and the most beautiful cars.

"Zurich is the city in Switzerland where everyone is in hurry, they mean business, they work hard for the dream of making more money," Martin said.


Photographs: Reuters
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