A federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., has indicted a Swiss lawyer who has been accused of helping a Virginia doctor conceal money in secret Swiss bank accounts at the British bank HSBC Holdings.
The jury returned an indictment last Thursday charging Felix M. Mathis, an attorney practicing in Zurich, Switzerland, with conspiring to defraud the United States and structuring the importation of currency into the U.S. If convicted, Mathis faces up to 25 years in prison and a maximum fine of $1.25 million.
According to court documents, in 1997, Dr. Andrew Silva of Sterling, Va., inherited an undeclared bank account from his mother at the Zurich branch of HSBC. The account was held in the name of a sham Liechtenstein trust.
In 1999, Silva met with Mathis, who managed the account in Zurich. Mathis instructed Silva to keep the account "hush," to not keep any records relating to the account, and to send coded letters to him if he wished to meet. Mathis 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 to the United States.
Silva was informed last September that HSBC 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 Mathis at his office and a Swiss banker at the private wealth office, prosecutors contend. Mathis and the Swiss banker allegedly refused to wire the money to the United States 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.
According to court documents, with the assistance of Mathis, Silva mailed 26 packages containing over $200,000 in U.S. currency from Switzerland to the United States to himself and another person.
Silva pleaded guilty on Feb. 16, 2010 to conspiracy to defraud the United States and to making a false statement (see HSBC Linked to Secret Swiss Bank Accounts). As part of his plea agreement, Silva agreed to forfeit to the government $211,200 in U.S. currency that law enforcement officials seized from packages that he mailed from Switzerland to his residence in Sterling, Va. On June 11, 2010, U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady sentenced Silva to two years of probation, including four months of home detention and a $20,000 fine.
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