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Bankers charged with aiding US tax fraud

Four staff at an unnamed Swiss bank have been charged with conspiring to defraud the United States tax authorities of billions of dollars.

The employees – three Swiss and one Italian – were indicted by a federal grand jury in Virginia, according to a statement issued by the US Justice Department on Wednesday.

Arrest warrants have been issued for all four, who are believed to be in Switzerland, according to Associated Press.

The indictment states that they engaged in illegal cross-border banking that was designed to help American customers avoid paying income tax by opening secret Swiss bank accounts.

It notes that the bank maintained thousands of secret accounts for customers in the US with as much as $3 billion (SFr2.8 billion) in total assets under management in those accounts. “The conspiracy dates back to 1953 and involved two generations of US tax evaders including US customers who inherited secret accounts at the international bank,” said the announcement.

One of the four defendants is alleged to have left the bank in question and continued aiding tax fraud at other Swiss banks.  

The indictment says after the bank decided to close the secret accounts maintained by US customers, “the defendants encouraged and assisted the customers to transfer their secret accounts to other banks in Switzerland and Hong Kong as a means of continuing to hide their assets from the IRS”.

If convicted, the defendants each face a maximum of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

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