An attorney who helped venture capitalists hide money in off shore accounts was arrested in Miami on Sunday. Prosecutors are charging the man and his clients with tax evasion as part of a long running investigation of UBS and Credit Suisse Group AG. So far, more than 20 bankers, attorneys and advisers have been charged in connection with the tax investigation.

Federal prosecutors have expanded their efforts to catch and prosecute people who have employed the protection of off shore bank accounts. Prosecutors believe that banks in Switzerland, Panama, England, the Cayman Islands, Luxemburg, Singapore and other nations are being used to hide hundreds of billions of dollars from the Internal Revenue Service. While the evidence of this is questionable, they are using the current climate of hostility towards wealthy Americans to drum up support.

The two venture capitalists were indicted on charges that they withheld $5.6 million and $2.6 million, respectively, from their tax returns. The attorney is said to have had authority over the two accounts in order to help the men with transactions designed to get the money back into the United States without arousing suspicion. He was in Miami because the U.S. Justice Department convinced Panamanian officials to oust him from their country.

If the three are convicted of filing false returns, failure to file, and conspiracy to commit tax fraud, they face heavy fines and jail time. For anyone who has an overseas bank account, this should serve as a warning. Prosecutors are serious about finding offshore funds and punishing those who failed to report the funds to the IRS.

Source: Bloomberg, “Three UBS Clients Charged With Hiding Money From U.S. in Offshore Accounts,” by David Voreacos, 30 January 2012

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