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More Swiss banks to settle with U.S. DoJ in near future: official

Swiss Secretary of State Jacques de Watteville attends his conference "The Swiss financial sector : Challenges and evolutions" at the Geneva Press Club in Geneva, Switzerland, May 26, 2015. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - More Swiss banks are expected to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice "in the near future" to avoid prosecution on charges of helping U.S. account holders hide their assets from the tax authorities, a senior Swiss finance ministry official said on Tuesday.

"The department of justice has settled a few cases recently and we are expecting more cases to be settled in the near future," Jacques de Watteville, secretary of state for international financial matters, told a news conference.

Last week Finter Bank Zurich AG agreed to pay $5.4 million in a deal with the Justice Department to resolve tax-related offences, becoming the third Swiss private bank this year to reach a settlement.

The settlement came under a voluntary Justice Department program launched in 2013 that enables Swiss banks to avoid prosecution by disclosing cross-border activities that helped U.S. account holders conceal assets and income.

De Watteville said Switzerland welcomed the Justice Department's aim of wrapping up all such cases, originally totaling about 100 in all, by the end of 2015.

"The sooner this is solved the better for everybody," he said.

However, a handful of banks such as Julius Baer are under formal criminal investigation and are barred from the voluntary settlement scheme.

The U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, Suzan LeVine, said in a newspaper interview published last week that those cases were likely to stretch into next year.

(Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Greg Mahlich)