Twenty-five offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers have yet to answer U.S. Justice Department charges that they helped Americans evade taxes. Most live in Switzerland, where they remain off-limits to U.S. prosecutors because the country doesn’t extradite people for tax crimes. If they cross the border into another country, they risk arrest, and the U.S. charges have no expiration date.
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Weil’s compatriots were cheered by his court victory, with Geneva financial newspaper L’Agefi calling him a “national hero” of “remarkable courage.” His success may tempt others to take their chances with a jury or to plead guilty and help prosecutors in bids for leniency.
They include former employees of Switzerland’s top three wealth managers -- UBS, Credit Suisse Group AG (CSGN) and Julius Baer Group Ltd. (BAER) Just 10 days after Weil’s acquittal, Martin Dunki, a 66-year-old retired client adviser at Zurich-based Rahn & Bodmer Banquiers, a private bank established in 1750, was indicted on a charge of conspiring to help Americans hide hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts.
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“Client advisers who committed egregious offenses are probably trying to cooperate and strike a deal with the Justice Department,” Patel said. “Bankers fear coming to the U.S. because the DOJ can detain them on arrival pending trial. Therefore, walking around freely in Switzerland may be a more appealing option, even if the charges remain unresolved.”
Stefan Buck, who was Bank Frey & Co.’s head of private banking, was indicted last year in New York. His lawyer filed a motion seeking bail without Buck’s first having to appear in a New York courtroom. Buck ultimately “wishes to leave the ‘safe haven’ of Switzerland to appear in a U.S. court to clear his name,” the filing said. Prosecutors oppose his bail motion, which is pending.
Josef Dorig, who founded a Swiss trust company after working 36 years at Credit Suisse, pleaded guilty in April, admitting he created phony structures to help clients cheat the IRS. Dorig, 72, cooperated with U.S. prosecutors and is slated for sentencing Jan. 16 in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.
In a pre-sentencing memorandum filed with the court, his lawyers said he deserves probation because he accepted responsibility and was not extraditable from Switzerland.
“Mr. Dorig had absolutely no incentive to voluntarily enter the United States to answer the charges against him or cooperate with the government,” his lawyers wrote. “He easily could have stayed in Switzerland and lived the rest of his life peacefully and happily in his homeland. But he did not.”
The U.S. probe has benefited from voluntary disclosures by at least 45,000 taxpayers and more than 100 Swiss banks seeking to reduce penalties through non-prosecution agreements. Information passed to U.S. authorities contains thousands of employee names, according to Douglas Hornung, a Geneva-based lawyer who represents Swiss financial workers.
“Weil’s acquittal was far from good news for bank employees lower down the food chain,” Hornung [Douglas Hornung, a Geneva-based attorney] said. “After losing face in court in November, U.S. prosecutors will redouble their efforts to pursue smaller fish.”JAT Comments:
1. The Senate PSI Report Offshore Tax Evasion, dated 2/26/14 (as finalized 8/20/14), here, stated:
To date, the U.S. Department of Justice has not made public any extradition requests made in connection with its investigation of Swiss banks suspected of facilitating U.S. tax evasion, even though it has indicted over two dozen Swiss banking and other professionals, most of whom have avoided trial for years by remaining in Switzerland. The United States has not said whether it has tested how Switzerland would exercise its discretion under the extradition treaty in the context of Swiss bankers charged with aiding and abetting U.S. tax evasion.2. On March 18, 2014, the bipartisan leaders of the PSI, Senators Levin and McCain, wrote a letter to DOJ noting that “charged 35 bankers and 25 financial advisors” with tax related crimes, that the extradition treaty does not bar extradition for at least some of the charged crimes, and urging the DOJ to make requests under the treaty. See letter posted on the PSI newsroom here.
3. Of course, Swiss enablers who have been identified or who may self-identified as within the scope of the DOJ's interest may prefer not to leave Switzerland for fear of being found in a country that will extradite. That is what happened to Mr. Weil. For those enablers, Switzerland is a sort-of club fed, but certainly the best form of club fed. See Switzerland as Club Fed for Swiss Enablers of U.S. Tax Crimes (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 10/24/13), here.