(Bloomberg) A former Swiss asset manager pleaded guilty to helping U.S. clients hide millions of dollars in offshore accounts and avoid paying federal income taxes.
Peter Amrein, 53, a Swiss citizen, told U.S. District Judge Sidney Stein in Manhattan Tuesday that from 1998 to 2012 he helped Americans evade taxes by concealing funds at various Swiss banks, including Wegelin & Co. He did so while working at an unidentified Swiss bank and later as an asset manager at a Swiss asset management firm.
He agreed to cooperate with U.S. authorities and testify before a federal grand jury and at other court proceedings, according to his plea agreement filed with the court.
Amrein was accused in an indictment last year of conspiring with a Swiss lawyer, Edgar Paltzer, to set up undeclared Swiss accounts at Wegelin, which pleaded guilty in New York to tax charges, and four other Swiss banks. None of the banks were identified.
Paltzer pleaded guilty in New York in 2013 and is cooperating in a crackdown on offshore tax evasion that has led to charges against more than 100 people, including about 70 U.S. taxpayers and more than 30 bankers, lawyers and advisers. Fourteen banks are under criminal investigation, including Credit Suisse Group AG, Switzerland’s second-largest bank, U.S. authorities have said.
“Mr. Amrein voluntarily surrendered on his own to the authorities in New York,” his lawyer, Tom Zehnle, said in an e-mailed statement. “He accepts full responsibility for the past actions he took on behalf of some of his U.S. clients, and he is confident in the fairness of the US justice system and will accept the court’s sentence, whatever that may be.”
Amrein pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service, evade federal income taxes and file a false income tax return. He faces as long as five years in prison when he’s sentenced. He could seek a lesser sentence based upon the degree of his assistance to U.S. authorities, according to his plea agreement.
In 2008, it became public that U.S. authorities were investigating UBS AG for helping its American customers maintain undeclared accounts in Switzerland, said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. After one Swiss bank told Amrein it was going to close undeclared accounts belonging to his U.S. taxpayer clients, Amrein searched for other Swiss banks willing to maintain them.
Amrein later helped nine clients hide assets, including aiding them in opening undeclared accounts at a Swiss bank in the name of sham foundations, according to prosecutors. As late as June 2011, the U.S. said he was still attempting to help American clients evade taxes and searching for Swiss banks willing to help open undeclared accounts.
Amrein worked at the Zurich-based bank from 1998 to 2006, and from 2006 to 2012 at the Zurich-based asset management firm, according to the indictment, which didn’t identify his employers. He provided wealth management services and advice on how to hide assets from the IRS, according to the indictment.
The case is U.S. v. Amrein, 13-cr-00972, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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