Assets hidden in an offshore tax haven which are  the subject of a divorce, forced collection proceeding, etc., can sometimes be uncovered by eliciting evidence from a bank witness residing in that offshore tax haven.  This is true because letters rogatory or other legal proceedings can usually be brought against an offshore bank  witness in tax havens like Switzerland, as mentioned by “An Asset Search In Geneva”.

The success of  these kinds of “offshore asset searches” however, often depends on whether exceptions to bank secrecy, (a.k.a. professional secrecy), laws are applicable to the particular situation.  To cite just one example, a Swiss bank witness can be compelled in Swiss court to disclose marital assets hidden by a U.S. or other divorcing spouse.  This critical point is emphasized by local Swiss counsel, who wrote to me the following:

 “I notice that you are also active in divorce matters. It sometimes happens that spouses try to hide their assets in Switzerland. This is to no avail since article 170 of the Swiss Civil Code provides that each spouse may request from the other information on his or her income, assets and debts. Upon request, the Judge may obligate the other spouse or third parties (including banks) to provide the required information and produce the necessary documents. This provision is enforceable even if the divorce takes place in the US or any other foreign jurisdiction in application of article 10 of the Swiss Code on Conflict of Laws which provides that the Swiss judicial or administrative authorities may order provisional measures even if they have no jurisdiction to render a decision on the merits.

These provisions often ignored by foreign lawyers provide efficient tools to obtain information, which in other circumstances would be strictly covered by the Swiss banking secrecy.”

Copyright 2008 Fred L. Abrams