Three more Swiss private banks have agreed fines totaling some $130 million (CHF128 million) to avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion offences in the United States. The French owned Crèdit Agricole Suisse (CAS) bank alone had to pay $99.2 million.
The amount paid by the Geneva-based private bank is the second highest individual charge of the 64 institutions that have so far settled with the Department of Justice (DoJ). Only BSI ($211 million) has been forced to shell out more.
CAS was handed its fine on Tuesday after admitting setting up sham companies and trust funds in the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Columbia, Curaçao, Hong Kong, Mauritius and Panama in order to shelter the identities of US clients.
Since August 1, 2008, CAS held 954 accounts for US clients (not all of them tax dodgers) containing a maximum aggregate value of $1.8 billion. In addition to its fine, CAS was forced to divulge the names of employees who maintained such accounts and details of third parties that helped set up trust funds, the DoJ said in a statement.
A second Swiss-based private bank, Dreyfuss paid a penalty of $24 million for holding 855 US accounts with a maximum combined value of $1.76 billion. Dreyfuss opened Panamanian funds after the Second World War, the DoJ said.
“This practice had its roots in the desire of Jewish clients to protect their assets for reasons of personal safety, and the purpose and operation of the entities was to conceal ownership of the assets from all government authorities, ‘friendly’ or otherwise,” the DoJ statement read. “However, the practice extended well into the 2000s.”
The third bank, Baumann, has agreed to pay $7.7 million for maintaining 167 accounts with a top aggregate value of $167 million.
The DoJ documents describe one account, held by US horse breeders, that was transferred to Baumann from Credit Suisse in 2010. Baumann then helped the client unwind the account through elaborate means, including the purchase of krugerrand gold coins.
The succession of fines being handed out to Swiss banks are being negotiated under the terms of a Swiss-US agreement of 2013 that allows institutions to admit wrongdoing in return for immunity from criminal prosecution. The scheme has so far netted the US more than $700 million in fines.