A former UBS banker has turned himself over to the United States authorities to face accusations he helped American clients stash money in Switzerland and avoid paying taxes on the funds.
The independent investment adviser was arraigned last week in Florida before being released after posting $750,000 (CHF670,000) bail. The Fort Lauderdale court where he is due to go on trial in late November also gave him permission to return to Switzerland.
The former banker was indicted in 2011 on charges of conspiring from 1993 to 2010 to help clients hide assets from the US Internal Revenue Service through accounts at UBS and a regional bank, which the Bloomberg news agency has named as the Basler Kantonalbank.
The indictment accused him of convincing his customers that Swiss banking secrecy would shield from prying eyes their ownership of undeclared bank accounts.
The Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper reported on Thursday that the banker shared an office with Renzo Gadola, who also worked for UBS until 2008 and managed offshore business with American clients.
In 2010, he allegedly asked Gadola to meet one of his own clients in the US because he feared arrest after UBS came under IRS scrutiny. His colleague met the client in Miami to try and discourage him from revealing details to the IRS.
However, this client had already made a confession to the IRS, and enabled the service to catch Gadola red-handed. As a result of his “extraordinary cooperation” with the US authorities following his arrest, Gadola was handed a light sentence of five years’ probation in 2011.
His cooperation is believed to have led the US justice department to his former colleague and another Swiss banker who was sentenced last November to 37 days in jail and 19 months house arrest in the US.
UBS itself avoided prosecution after admitting it aided tax evasion, agreeing to a settlement with the US justice department under which it paid out $780 million and handed over data on 250 secret accounts.
Around 30 Swiss bankers, asset and wealth managers have been indicted in the US so far. Most of them have stayed away from the country to avoid arrest, but with international warrants issued, safety beyond Switzerland’s borders in not guaranteed.
The arrest of former UBS wealth management boss Raoul Weil in Italy last weekend showed that bankers should not be complacent when travelling abroad.
swissinfo.ch and agencies