(Bloomberg) Three Swiss bankers accused in 2012 of helping Americans hide more than $1.2 billion from the Internal Revenue Service face new charges of obstructing the agency from collecting taxes on undeclared accounts.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan filed an expanded indictment Wednesday against former Wegelin & Co. bankers Roger Keller, Urs Frei and Michael Berlinka. Keller, 50, was arrested on Feb. 2 in Frankfurt, where he faces extradition to New York.
The men are among 38 offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers charged in the U.S. since 2008 with tax crimes. About two dozen have yet to answer the charges in court. They include bankers from Switzerland’s top three wealth managers—UBS Group AG, Credit Suisse Group AG and Julius Baer Group Ltd. Most live in Switzerland, where they remain off-limits to U.S. prosecutors because the Swiss don’t extradite suspects for tax crimes.
Wegelin, Switzerland’s oldest private bank, pleaded guilty in 2013 in New York to helping taxpayers hide as much as $1.5 billion from the IRS. Wegelin paid and forfeited $74 million to the U.S., admitting it helped hundreds of taxpayers evade taxes from 2002 to 2010. It no longer operates.
The bank was charged in February 2012, a month after prosecutors accused Keller, Frei and Berlinka of conspiring with others to cheat the IRS.
Prosecutors accused them of helping Americans open dozens of accounts and hide them from the IRS after a U.S. probe led clients to flee bigger Swiss banks in 2008 and 2009.
That probe picked up after the U.S. charged UBS in 2009 with helping Americans cheat the IRS. UBS avoided prosecution by admitting it aided tax evasion, paying $780 million and handing over data on 250 accounts. It later disclosed 4,450 more accounts, causing U.S. customers to seek new banks.
The case is U.S. v. Berlinka, 12-cr-00002, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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