Seven customers of banking giant UBS have been charged with conspiracy and criminal tax offenses in a scheme to conceal millions of dollars in Swiss-based assets and the income earned on those assets from the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors announced today.
The charges were contained in five indictments in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. Two of the defendants pleaded guilty today to filing false federal income tax returns and agreed to pay millions of dollars in penalties.
Prosecutors said four defendants removed their assets from UBS shortly after it was revealed in May 2008 that a criminal probe of UBS might cause disclosure of their unreported accounts to the Justice Department.
The government said those defendants moved tens of millions of dollars collectively to smaller, lower-profile Swiss and Liechtenstein banks because the banks did not have offices in the United States.
Two defendants returned their money to the United States either in person or by having a family member pick up hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash or travelers checks from UBS’s offices in Zurich, Switzerland before returning to the U.S., authorities said.
The prosecution stemmed from a probe that determined that from at least 2000 to 2008, UBS helped U.S. taxpayers conceal their Swiss-based assets and the income earned from those assets from the IRS.
The government said UBS provided the service through its “U.S. cross-border banking business,” which employed about 60 UBS employees based in Switzerland.
Authorities say independent Swiss attorneys and financial advisers for the U.S. taxpayers helped them conceal their Swiss-based assets by listing sham offshore companies as the account holders rather than the U.S. taxpayers who controlled the accounts.
- Associated Press.