Manhattan U.S. Attorneys are charging three Swiss bankers with conspiring to help U.S. clients hide more than $1.2 billion from American tax authorities. All three employees remain at the Wegelin, the bank in question, which does not have offices or branches in the United States. Wegelin, the oldest Swiss private bank, no longer has U.S. clients, and is currently negotiating with U.S. tax authorities. Despite the indictment, Wegelin, says that all three bankers continue to work at its Zurich branch.
The indictment alleges that the three Swiss Bankers helped American clients open dozens of accounts and hide them from the Internal Revenue Service, after a U.S. crackdown on offshore tax evasion led American clients to flee bigger Swiss banks in 2008 and 2009. U.S. attorneys claim that as of about 2005, Wegelin hid approximately $240 million in undeclared assets for American clients. By 2010, the collective maximum value of the assets in undeclared accounts beneficially owned by U.S. taxpayer-clients of Wegelin was more than $1.2 billion, with many accounts holding in excess of $10,000 in any one year, according to the indictment. U.S. taxpayers are required to report the existence of any foreign bank account on their federal income tax returns if it holds more than $10,000 at any time during a given year, as well as any income it earns.
The prosecution of the Swiss bankers signals a broadening crackdown by U.S. prosecutors, who continue to file tax charges against more than three dozen U.S. clients of UBS AG and Credit Suisse Group AG, Switzerland’s two biggest banks, and London-based HSBC Holdings, Europe’s biggest bank. U.S. prosecutors have also charged at least 24 bankers, advisers and attorneys, including seven Credit Suisse bankers.
If you have questions regarding a foreign bank account, or have been contacted by the IRS regarding a foreign bank account or other assets held or located in a foreign country, contact one of our attorneys at (916)488-8501.