A Virginia doctor has pleaded guilty to conspiracy involving an undeclared Swiss bank account reportedly at HSBC, indicating that investigators are widening their probe of secret Swiss bank accounts beyond UBS.
Andrew Silva of Sterling, Va., pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to impede the United States and to making a false statement. He inherited an undeclared bank account in 1997 from his mother at the Zurich branch of HSBC, which is headquartered in the United Kingdom. The account was held in the name of a sham Liechtenstein trust.
In 1999, Silva met with an attorney who managed the account in Zurich. The Zurich attorney instructed Silva to keep the account hush, to not keep any records relating to the account, and to send coded letters if he wished to meet with the attorney. Further, the Zurich attorney advised Silva that if he transported or mailed less than $10,000 in U.S. currency back to the United States, he would not have to declare the funds to the U.S. government upon re-entry.
According to court documents, in September 2009, Silva learned that the bank was closing his undeclared Swiss account and that he had until the end of the year to travel to Switzerland to withdraw all the funds. He made two trips to Zurich in October and November 2009 and met with the Zurich attorney at his office and a Swiss banker at the banks private wealth office.
The Zurich attorney and the Swiss banker refused to wire the money to the U.S. as it would leave a trail for U.S. law enforcement. Instead, they provided him with $235,000 in U.S. currency. Of that total, Silva received $200,000 in two individually wrapped bricks of $100,000 of sequentially numbered, new $100 bills.
With the assistance of the Zurich attorney, Silva mailed 26 packages containing over $200,000 in U.S. currency from Switzerland to the United States to himself and another person, according to prosecutors. He admitted that on Nov. 23, 2009, upon his return to the U.S., he falsely informed a customs inspector at Dulles International Airport that he had traveled to Switzerland to purchase diamonds and claimed that he had not recently mailed any U.S. currency from Switzerland to the United States.
For tax years 1997 through 2008, Silva filed individual tax returns that failed to report on the Schedules B that he had an interest in a financial account in a foreign country. In addition, he failed to report the income he earned on his undeclared Swiss account on his tax returns. For the same years, he also failed to file an FBAR, a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts on Form TD F 90-22.1, reporting his interest in his undeclared Swiss account.
As part of his plea agreement, Silva agreed to forfeit $211,200 in U.S. currency that law enforcement officials seized from the packages he mailed from Switzerland to his residence in Virginia. Sentencing has been set for May 7, 2010, before U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady. Silva remains free on a $50,000 bail. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.
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