Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Swiss bankers sought tax-evading U.S. clients, government alleges

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has charged three Swiss bankers -- who sought to scoop up former UBS clients -- with conspiring to hide more than $1.2 billion in assets for U.S. clients from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

The indictment of the Swiss bankers lays out a simple business plan: The three bankers – Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei and Roger Keller – wanted to capitalize on the IRS investigation of Swiss bank UBS and another large international Swiss bank. To capture the business of those fleeing UBS and the other bank, they allegedly told U.S. clients that their bank wouldn’t disclose its clients’ identities to the U.S. because it had a long tradition of bank secrecy and “was less vulnerable to United States law enforcement pressure because, unlike UBS, the bank did not have offices outside Switzerland,” the indictment says.

The indictment doesn’t identify the bank Berlinka, Frei and Keller worked for, but Reuters reported they worked for Wegelin & Co., one of Switzerland’s oldest private banks.