Recently, the U.S. government has been stepping up its enforcement efforts against the use of hidden offshore accounts to commit tax evasion. As part of this enforcement, the government will sometimes conduct criminal prosecutions against the banks or bankers that it believes provided these hidden accounts to taxpayers. Such a case has recently arisen in Virginia.
The case involves four bankers who worked for a large Swiss bank. Three of these bankers are Swiss citizens, while the fourth is an Italian citizen. These four have been accused of helping clients evade U.S. taxes.
Specifically, the four are accused of providing assistance to clients who used hidden accounts with the bank to hide assets from the IRS. The government claims that as of 2008, the bank had thousands of these hidden accounts which concealed billions of dollars of client assets.
The four bankers now face tax evasion conspiracy charges in connection to these allegations. The bankers could face up to five years in prison if they are convicted of these charges.
Charges have not been brought against the Swiss bank which the suspects worked for. The bank claims that it is cooperating with authorities in regards to the case against the four bankers.
This case shows how aggressive the U.S. has become in its tax evasion enforcement. The government has been showing an increased willingness to prosecute individuals and institutions that are believed to have assisted taxpayers in hiding assets from the IRS. It will be interesting to see how this case progresses and whether it leads to any other prosecutions regarding the alleged use of hidden accounts at the Swiss bank.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "UPDATE: DOJ Charges 4 Swiss Bank Employees With Helping Individuals Evade Taxes," (Article no longer available online) Martin Vaughan and John Kell, 23 Feb 2011