In Switzerland, centuries old traditions make it a criminal act for bankers to disclose the names of clients. Switzerland does not consider tax evasion to be a crime, although tax fraud and money-laundering schemes are against the law. Because of the banking laws in Switzerland, Swiss banks have long been a haven for people in the United States who want to keep their money offshore and obtain a measure of privacy from the United States government.
The ability to trust the secrecy of Swiss banks, however, is no longer the certainty that it once was. This is because, as Newsweek reports, the United States government is cracking down on people who keep their money offshore, as well as on the bankers who help them. With bankers under increasing pressure to turn over information to U.S. authorities, those who have offshore accounts may soon find themselves the subject of investigation. A Washington DC criminal tax lawyer should be consulted if you are concerned with having money offshore that you have not reported. There may be opportunities to take advantage of voluntary disclosure programs to limit penalties, but you need to act before the government finds you.
Bank Officials Are Dealing With Serious Charges
Since 2007, American prosecutors have brought criminal charges against more than four dozen American clients who have money kept offshore at Swiss banks. Authorities have also prosecuted almost three dozen foreign bankers, financial intermediaries and attorneys who helped to make it possible for American investors to keep their money offshore. The Justice Department has also indicted banks, including Wegelin & Co, which was Switzerland’s oldest private bank. The bank shut its doors after the indictment.
It is apparent that prosecutors are not going after low-level bankers. As Newsweek reports, top private bankers at big banks like UBS have been prosecuted and some have compiled and turned over evidence, such as incriminating emails, showing that senior executives at the very highest level were aware of efforts to evade U.S. tax laws.
The former head of UBS’s wealth management for the Americas was among those arrested, along with his boss. The former wealth management head turned over a secret binder to U.S. authorities providing information on executive involvement in exchange for a non-prosecution deal. Other Swiss bankers who are prosecuted may also make the choice to turn over incriminating information, including customer information, in order to score similar deals for themselves and avoid jail time.
Because of the risks associated with the government finding accounts, many people are coming forward to report their offshore investments and pay back taxes. More than 38,000 clients of Swiss banks have paid $5.5 billion in taxes on hidden assets. Coming forward before you are under investigation could help you to reduce penalties and avoid criminal prosecution but you should talk to a Washington DC criminal tax lawyer about whether this is the right choice for you before you decide to act.