Page last updated at 21:42 GMT, Sunday, 5 April 2009 22:42 UK

UBS grounds foreign desk managers

UBS branch
Switzerland recognises as a crime only tax fraud, not tax evasion

Switzerland's biggest bank, UBS, has banned company managers who deal with foreign clients from travelling abroad, as a US fraud investigation continues.

The Swiss bank is being investigated by the US authorities over alleged fraud and tax evasion involving US citizens.

UBS denied the travel ban had been put in place specifically to protect senior staff from American authorities.

US officials have accused UBS staff of helping American clients hide money in offshore accounts.

The bank earlier gave them the names of some 300 Americans it has advised, but refused to identify 52,000 others.

In February, UBS agreed to pay $780m (£525m) to the US government to settle allegations that it had defrauded US tax authorities.

It is estimated that the US government loses $100bn in revenues every year because of tax havens.

'Humiliation'

The move at UBS confirms widespread media speculation that it and other Swiss banks are imposing travel bans on their staff for fear of falling foul of an international crackdown on tax havens, the BBC's Imogen Foulkes reports.

UBS said it was in the process of reviewing its wealth management policy and that for the foreseeable future, contact with clients would be confined to e-mail and telephone.

The travel ban is yet another worrying signal from UBS, our correspondent says.

It is still reeling from enormous sub-prime losses and is at the centre of the widening US investigation into alleged tax fraud by US citizens.

Although Switzerland has now agreed to comply with international guidelines and lift banking secrecy in tax evasion cases, it has not put the new policy into practice yet.

The UBS travel ban is perhaps sensible, our correspondent adds, but it is also a major humiliation.

UBS is the world's biggest wealth manager, its slogan was "UBS You & Us", and it prided itself on its personal face-to-face approach.

Now its managers can contact foreign clients only by phone or e-mail.



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