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Safra Group to buy Morgan Stanley’s Swiss unit

img_0021Safra Group’s Swiss unit agreed to buy Morgan Stanley’s private banking business in Switzerland, adding to the exodus of foreign banks since the country gave ground on its bank secrecy rules. J. Safra Sarasin acquired Morgan Stanley’s private banking business in Geneva and Zurich which manages about $10 billion, Ilan Hayim, chairman of J. Safra Sarasin, said. The price of the transaction, expected to be completed in the first half of 2015, depends on how much of the money flows to the Swiss bank. Profitability at private banks in Switzerland has come under pressure amid U.S. and European probes into their use by foreigners seeking to avoid taxes in home countries. UBS paid $780 million and avoided prosecution in 2009 by saying it fostered tax evasion and delivering data on thousands of American accounts in Switzerland. Credit Suisse Group AG is the largest of 14 Swiss banks facing Justice Department criminal probes. Morgan Stanley’s unit is among Swiss banks taking part in the U.S. Department of Justice’s voluntary program to identify undeclared assets, three people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this week. The business J. Safra Sarasin agreed to buy does not include any U.S. customers.

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