For decades, Switzerland has occupied an outsize role in the world of shady international finance. The country’s strict secrecy laws have made it the offshore banking destination of choice for U.S. tax evaders, Russian oligarchs, Nigerian kleptocrats, and Brazilian money launderers. According to research by Gabriel Zucman, an assistant professor at the London School of Economics, Swiss banks still hold at least $2 trillion that customers haven’t declared to tax authorities in their home countries. “You’re not a self-respecting Swiss bank if you don’t have some dodgy money floating around your system,” says Martin Kenney, an attorney in the British Virgin Islands who specializes in international fraud.
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Swiss authorities, however, have refused to hand over any bankers—and the U.S. hasn’t asked for them. At least 21 financial advisers in Switzerland under U.S. indictment remain at large, making them fugitives in the eyes of the American government. Their acts aren’t considered crimes under Swiss law, so the country won’t extradite or prosecute them. Several still work in the Swiss financial industry, offering tax advice and other services. Some still have U.S. clients.
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At least four I talked to have decided to face the music: pleading guilty in the U.S. and cooperating with prosecutors. What persists is an indignation about being targeted for just following orders—and a sense that, despite their indictments, the Swiss banking system remains dirty.For related blog entries, see
- Article on Swiss Enabler Fugitives Avoiding U.S. Indictments (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 12/26/14), here.
- Senators Urge Extradition of Indicted Swiss Bank Enablers (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 3/18/14), here.
- Switzerland as Club Fed for Swiss Enablers of U.S. Tax Crimes (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 10/24/13), here.