US releases UBS tax evasion witness

The United States authorities have allowed a top UBS bank official to return to Switzerland after holding him for several months as a witness in a tax evasion probe.

This content was published on August 14, 2008 - 17:47

UBS's head of wealth management Americas, Martin Liechti, had not been allowed to leave the US after being named as a material witness in May. He appeared before a Senate hearing in July, but refused to testify.

The US Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice are investigating whether UBS staff helped wealthy clients evade tax in the country. Switzerland's largest bank has announced it will stop offshore banking services for US customers.

Last month, a Miami court gave the green light for officials to issue a "John Doe" summons demanding details of UBS clients. Such a summons is issued when the name of the taxpayer under investigation is unknown.

Liechti was seized earlier this year after a former employee, Bradley Birkenfeld, was arrested and charged with tax evasion offences. Birkenfeld admitted the charges in court and will be sentenced in October.

"Martin Liechti has resolved his status with the US government and returned to Switzerland," the bank said in a statement on Thursday.

UBS has also had to face litigation in the US over alleged mis-selling of securities. It has settled in a number of cases, but faced another lawsuit on Thursday from the state of New Hampshire.

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