Keller is among 38 offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers charged in the U.S. since 2008 with tax crimes. About two dozen have yet to answer the charges in court. They include bankers from Switzerland’s top three wealth managers -- UBS Group AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd. Most live in Switzerland, where they remain off-limits to U.S. prosecutors because the Swiss don’t extradite people for tax crimes. They risk arrest if they cross into other countri
“Swiss bankers under indictment are in a situation where their lifestyle is in jeopardy and they’re under a form of detention,” said Bruce Zagaris, a Washington attorney not involved in the case. “They’re used to traveling worldwide. Suddenly, they’re faced with a choice of remaining in Switzerland or traveling abroad and being arrested.”
Frankfurt prosecutors said they arrested a 50-year old Swiss citizen based on an international search alert by the U.S. seeking his extradition, Alexander Badle, a spokesman for the Frankfurt General Prosecutor’s Office, said in an e-mail. Keller was 47 when he was indicted three years ago.
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The indictment said the Wegelin bankers told clients their undeclared accounts would stay hidden from the IRS because the bank “had a long tradition of bank secrecy, and, unlike UBS, did not have offices outside Switzerland,” making it “less vulnerable to United States law enforcement pressure.”
“In or about 2008, the managing partners affirmatively decided to take advantage of the flight of U.S. taxpayers with undeclared accounts by opening new undeclared accounts for many of them at Swiss Bank A,” the indictment said. “Swiss Bank A opened new undeclared accounts for at least 70 U.S. taxpayers.”
Berlinka [another Wegelin banker] began working at the bank in 2008, Frei [another Wegelin banker] started in 2006 and Keller began in 2007, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara at the time. The men face as long as five years in prison if convicted.
The indictment details how Berlinka, Frei and Keller allegedly helped 23 U.S. clients open undeclared accounts at their bank. Kenneth Heller, a disbarred New York maritime attorney who pleaded guilty to hiding more than $26.4 million in accounts at UBS and Wegelin, also is referred to in the indictment.
The three bankers conspired with two other Swiss financial advisers already under indictment, Gian Gisler and Beda Singenberger, according to the charges.For prior coverage on Keller and the others, see New Swiss Enabler Indictments - Bankers Related to UBS and, Allegedly, Wegelin (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 1/3/12), here, and Wegelin Indicted in SDNY with Money Laundering Fofeiture (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 2/2/12), here.