A former banker with Swiss bank Credit Suisse has pleaded guilty at a US court to aiding Americans evade income tax of up to $3.5 million (CHF3.35 million). He could face up to five years in prison.
The 48-year-old Italian citizen and Swiss resident pleaded guilty on Wednesday in the Eastern District Court of Virginia. He was a relationship manager at Credit Suisse and helped US citizens conceal their assets and income in secret Swiss bank accounts between 2002 and 2009. He managed a portfolio of around $700 million for Americans residing in the West Coast and helped them evade taxes in the range of $1.5 million to $3.5 million.
A US Department of Justice statement revealed some of the methods used to facilitate tax avoidance. To avoid detection, the banker would meet clients when they came to Zurich or travel to the US once or twice a year. In the US, he would use private couriers to avoid being caught carrying clients’ financial statements. No Credit Suisse logo would ever be used in financial statements and stationery, including business cards, to avoid implicating the bank if caught.
Clients’ withdrawals were carried out using multiple cheques, each worth under $10,000, to avoid attracting suspicion. Large cash withdrawals were done through Credit Suisse branches in the Bahamas and at Zurich airport, as well as a financial institution in Britain.
The accused also provided investment advice to American clients on US securities against US law and even Credit Suisse’s official policy. He claimed he was pressurised by the bank to make sales in the US.
“To those who have actively assisted US taxpayers in using offshore accounts to evade taxes, the message is clear: staying outside the United States will provide little comfort,” said acting assistant attorney-general Caroline Ciraolo in the statement released on Wednesday by the DoJ.
“We will investigate and charge you, and will work relentlessly to hold you to account for your actions.”
She said the ex-banker was “the third fugitive to come to the United States and plead guilty to charges in this case”.
Two other co-defendants in the case – both Swiss citizens – had pleaded guilty to similar charges in 2014 and were sentenced a year later. In 2014, Credit Suisse pleaded guilty to helping Americans evade taxes and was fined $2.6 billion.
Besides a potential maximum statutory prison sentence of five years, the ex-banker could face stiff fines.