Friday, June 20, 2008

Swiss Banker to Talk.....and Talk

A former private banker for the Swiss giant UBS pleaded guilty in Federal District Court on Thursday to a charge of helping a wealthy American real estate developer evade taxes on $200 million.

The former banker, Bradley C. Birkenfeld, in his plea, also agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in a widening investigation of the bank’s practices and its clients.

Mr. Birkenfeld, 43, was accused of helping the developer, who has been identified as Igor Olenicoff, hide more than $200 million in accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. But Birkenfeld had “numerous” other American clients, according to his lawyer, Danny Onorato.

In a seven-page statement of facts, Birkenfeld described some of the tactics of the private banking trade. On one occasion, according to the court document, Mr. Birkenfeld, at the request of an unidentified American client, bought diamonds using the client’s Swiss bank account and then smuggled them into the United States in a toothpaste tube. UBS trained its private bankers traveling to the United States to tell customs authorities that the trip was for pleasure, not business, according to the court papers.

He said that he and other unidentified UBS private bankers urged their American clients to destroy all offshore private banking records held in the United States; to use Swiss credit cards that could not be discovered by American tax authorities; and to falsely characterize money pulled out of Swiss accounts as loans from UBS. The entire business brought in $200 million a year in revenues to UBS.

No comments:

Post a Comment