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Tax evasion

UBS hands Singapore client details to US

UBS bank has been forced into a climb down by agreeing to hand over details of a suspected tax dodger to United States tax authorities, following a lengthy legal battle. The client had switched accounts from Switzerland to Singapore in an effort to evade US scrutiny.

The case apparently breaks down another barrier that had frustrated the attempts of the US to track down tax cheats. The US had earlier forced Switzerland to dismantle its banking secrecy laws to hand over files on Swiss-based accounts. But prosecutors have not found it so easy to obtain information of Swiss bank clients with accounts held outside of Switzerland.

Following three years of fruitless negotiation with UBS to release details of one such client with a Singapore account, the US Justice Department in February asked a Miami court to force the bank to comply.

“The interest of the United States in combating tax evasion by US taxpayers through the use of secret foreign bank accounts substantially outweighs the interest of Singapore in preserving the privacy of its bank customers,” the Justice Department stated in papers submitted to the court.

On Thursday, UBS caved in to the legal pressure and agreed to hand over details of the Taiwanese-born client, who had spent time in the US before moving to China. He is suspected of evading US taxes between 2006 and 2011.

Client consent

UBS indicated that it handed over the data only with the permission of both the client and Singaporean authorities.

“UBS confirms that it complied with the summons based on client consent in accordance with Singapore law,” the bank said in a statement.

US prosecutors dropped their legal proceedings against the bank and declared the handover as a victory.

“The Department of Justice and the IRS are committed to making sure that offshore tax evasion is detected and dealt with appropriately,” Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Tax Division, Caroline D. Ciraolo, said in a statement. “One critical component of that effort is making sure that the IRS has all of the information it needs to audit taxpayers with offshore assets.”

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