(Bloomberg) Credit Agricole SA’s unit in Switzerland agreed to pay $99.2 million to avoid prosecution through a U.S. program that has secured almost $742 million in penalties from 64 Swiss banks that disclosed how they helped Americans evade taxes.
The payment was the second-largest of the year after BSI SA, which agreed to pay $211 million in March. Credit Agricole, France’s third-largest bank, admitted in a statement of facts released Tuesday that it knew or should have known that U.S. clients were hiding assets and income from the Internal Revenue Service.
The U.S. Justice Department also released non-prosecution agreements with Dreyfus Sons & Co., which agreed to pay $24. 2 million, and Baumann & Cie Banquiers, which will pay $7.7 million.
Credit Agricole admitted that it maintained accounts for clients through entities set up in Panama, Columbia, Curacao, Hong Kong, Mauritius, the Bahamas and the British Virgin Islands, according to its non-prosecution agreement. It also used traditional Swiss banking services such as holding mail, numbered accounts and cash withdrawals to help clients hide their assets, according to the agreement.
The French bank told U.S. clients that it would close their accounts in 2009, after UBS Group AG, the largest Swiss bank, settled a criminal tax case with the Justice Department. Credit Agricole admitted that it used a “flawed account-closing protocol” that allowed U.S. clients to continue to hide assets from the IRS, according to its statement of facts.
Clients were able to get their money by “successive withdrawals of cash, reloads of prepaid stored-value cash cards or bank checks,” the bank admitted.
The Baumann statement of facts said that in June 2009, that bank opened an account for a retired lawyer living in Las Vegas. The account, held in the name of a Panama corporation, had $27 million that came from another Swiss bank that was under criminal investigation. Baumann “knew or should have known” that the lawyer submitted an untrue form saying the Panama corporation was the actual owner, the bank admitted.
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