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US reveals UBS client investigation

More than 150 US clients of the Swiss bank UBS are currently being investigated for tax fraud, according to a document presented to a Florida court on Tuesday.

This content was published on August 18, 2009 - 20:32

The figures are contained in a legal motion filed by the US Justice Department to the federal court in Fort Lauderdale, calling for leniency in the sentence due to be imposed on former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld on Friday. Birkenfeld, who in 2008 pleaded guilty to fraud conspiracy charges, subsequently cooperated with the US authorities in their inquiry into UBS activities.

UBS is accused of having helped wealthy Americans to defraud the US tax authorities. The authorities put pressure on the bank to release the names of about 52,000 US clients, but the Swiss side maintained that to do so would violate Swiss banking secrecy law.

The two sides initialled a deal last week to halt court proceedings over the issue. The agreement is due to be signed on Wednesday, and details are expected to emerge shortly afterwards.

It is thought that the bank may eventually hand over details of a total of about 5,000 clients, in accordance with Switzerland's obligation to help the US Internal Revenue Service in cases where legal proceedings may be taken.

The names of the 150 ex-clients currently under investigation were released by UBS in February, as part of a first agreement with the US.

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