Taxes

Swiss Upper House Surrenders To U.S. Pressure on Tax Deal

More resistance expected in the lower house

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Switzerland cleared the first hurdle towards ending a long-running U.S. tax probe after one chamber of lawmakers voted to allow banks to sidestep strict secrecy laws to end the threat of criminal charges for helping wealthy Americans evade tax.

The draft law is set to face far tougher opposition in Switzerland's lower house next week than in the upper chamber, which passed it by a decisive 24 votes to 15 on Wednesday.

The protection of client information has helped to make Switzerland the world's biggest offshore financial center, with $2 trillion in assets. But that haven has come under fire as other countries have sought to plug budget deficits by clamping down on tax evasion, with authorities probing Swiss banks in Germany and France as well as the United States.