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Tax evader gets community service

Beanie Babies were all the rage in the 1990s Keystone

The American creator of the Beanie Babies plush toys will serve two years of probation – including mentoring high school students – after evading US taxes by stashing money in Swiss bank accounts.

Billionaire Ty Warner, 69, pleaded guilty in October, saying that the crime was the “biggest mistake” of his life. On Tuesday, a federal judge in Chicago sentenced him to probation but no jail time. Warner had already agreed to pay a civil penalty of nearly $53.6 million (CHF48.7 million).

The businessman first opened a UBS bank account in 1996; when UBS was in the sights of the US authorities, he transferred the money – over $93.6 million – to the Zürcher Kantonalbank in 2002. He then neglected to report these assets when filing his taxes.

However, US District Court Judge Charles Kocoras said that society would be better served if Warner were allowed to continue his good work rather than being locked up.

“Warner’s private acts of kindness, benevolence and generosity are overwhelming,” said Kocoras, referring to dozens of letters supporting Warner and describing his charitable works. The judge ordered Warner to do 500 hours of community service.

Warner has offered to teach students how to create a retail product – like a mascot – that could be sold for a school fundraiser. He must also pay $27 million in back taxes and interest.

He was fortunate. The same court sentenced another businessman to a year in prison, although he had hidden “only” $3 million.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR