Sen. Rand Paul is fighting a treaty aimed at catching thousands of rich tax evaders by going after their secret Swiss bank accounts.
The United States has attempted to strike a deal with authorities in Switzerland that will force 13 banks in the European country to name wealthy Americans who are hiding billions of taxable dollars in Swiss accounts, Politico reported.
But Paul, the libertarian Kentucky Republican and tea party favorite, has steadfastly opposed the accord since it was proposed in 2009, claiming that it impedes on the privacy rights of U.S. citizens.
His stance has come under fire from critics who say that he's preventing the Justice Department from unmasking people who are breaking U.S. tax laws and helping Americans avoid billions in taxes.
The standoff came to a head when the leaders of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, and John McCain, an Arizona Republican, slammed the Justice Department for failing to catch American tax cheats.
The pair singled out the Swiss bank Credit Suisse for essentially helping Americans with accounts in its bank to evade paying U.S. taxes.
But Credit Suisse CEO Brady Dougan hit back, saying, according to Politico: "Credit Suisse is ready, at this moment, to provide the additional information about Swiss accounts requested by U.S. authorities, but has been unable to do so because the U.S. Senate has not yet ratified the protocol."
Paul has maintained that the accord runs afoul of the Fourth Amendment rights protecting against unreasonable search and seizure.
The senator recently said, "These are people that are alleged, not convicted, of doing anything wrong. I don't think you should have everybody's information from their bank. There should be some process; accusations and proof that you've committed a crime."
The new treaty would replace a 1996 agreement with Switzerland, a tax haven for the rich, stipulating that the U.S. Justice Department must show proof that taxpayers have committed "fraud." The new treaty reduces the standard to simple tax evasion, such as failure to file a tax return.
Credit Suisse, which has sent the Justice Department only 238 names out of 22,000 Americans with accounts in its bank, recently sent representatives to Paul's office to ask him to support the treaty.
But a senior Paul aide told Politico, "If people are breaking the law, they should be punished, but we can't capitulate on Americans' privacy rights in order to handle this one issue at this one moment in time."
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