Thursday, October 24, 2013

Switzerland as Club Fed for Swiss Enablers of U.S. Tax Crimes (10/24/13)

Following through on the arrest and detention of Raoul Weil (see Ex Top UBS Banker Arrested; Likely to be Extradited (10/21/13), here), Reuters has an interesting article on the effect of the U.S. criminal initiative against Swiss enablers of U.S. tax cheats.  See Michael Shields and Katharina Bart, Arrest chills Swiss bankers' travel plans (Reuters 10/23/13), here.  Some excerpts are:
Seeing one of their select number hauled in handcuffs before a foreign court may prompt Swiss bankers to call their lawyers before they ring travel agents to book a winter break. 
* * * * 
"Maybe we'll all be taking our vacations in Ticino and Graubuenden," one senior private banker told Reuters, making light of concerns among his peers about travelling abroad by talking up the charms of Switzerland's picturesque mountains. 
* * * * 
It is unclear why Weil, 54, chose to cross the border, five years after he was publicly indicted by U.S. prosecutors. Switzerland does not extradite its own citizens in cases of tax fraud. But Italy, which acted on an Interpol warrant, has given the United States six weeks to seek Weil's transfer for trial. 
* * * * 
It is unclear how many Swiss risk arrest. Some may be the subject of U.S. indictments not made public. The U.S. Justice Department did not answer a request for the figures. Martin Naville, chief executive of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce in Zurich, thinks the number may be in the low dozens. 
Yet, he says, hundreds more have curbed their itineraries, avoiding setting foot on U.S. territory if not others, for fear of being caught up in the Justice Department's dragnet. 
"I would say there are 1,000 people who are currently not travelling to the United States because they are afraid," said Naville, whose forum maintains close ties to both Swiss and American business leaders and senior bankers. 
* * * * 
Naville said Swiss bank staff who had had few dealings with U.S. clients probably had little to fear. "But," he added, "If you have somebody who had 200 of those clients, had been very aggressive in pushing and peddling specific structures in overseas dominions and everything, that person is at risk."
For those in doubt, suggested Valentin Landmann, a Zurich attorney who has represented Swiss clients in the United States, the worst thing to do is to think the Americans will just forget about them. His advice to any banker in fear of travelling was to check their status directly with U.S. authorities. 
* * * * 
For many of those in Switzerland now uncertain of where they stand following his arrest, the Chamber of Commerce's Naville said seeking out a settlement with U.S. courts may be the best course: "If you're 75 and retired and can be happy not to travel outside Switzerland any more, then don't do anything," he said. 
"If you're 45 and would still like to do business, then you have to solve it."
JAT Comment:

Maybe Switzerland will function as a type of "Club Fed" (Wikipedia entry here).  The metaphor is that, although these "enablers" have not yet been convicted of crimes, they are receiving their punishment by being confined -- by fear -- to a nice locality (here Switzerland) but their movement -- perhaps the same as freedom -- is otherwise severely restricted.

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