Former UBS bank executive Raoul Weil believes the United States tried to use him to batter down Swiss banking secrecy by having him arrested and placed on trial last year.
In an interview with the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper on Wednesday, Weil said the US Department of Justice intended to “lead me to the scaffold” in order to break a deadlock with the Swiss authorities during tax evasion negotiations.
“The Americans tried to make an example of me. I was the most prominent Swiss bank representative in this situation [accused of aiding and abetting US tax cheats],” Weil told the newspaper.
“The message was: this is our first victim, there are more to follow. I was a scapegoat being used to soften the negotiations blockade.”
But in November 2014, a Florida jury acquitted the former head of UBS wealth management of masterminding a vast tax evasion scheme by hiding $20 billion (CHF19.2 billion) in US client assets at the bank.
Weil has written a book about his arrest in Italy in late 2013, his extradition to the US and eventual trial that will be released this week. He said he was motivated to put pen to paper for “therapeutic” reasons, to help him make sense of his traumatic experience.
The 56-year-old said he was disappointed at his treatment, but bears no grudges. He continues to deny that he did anything wrong, instead blaming a small number of rogue client advisors at his former bank for violating US law.
“I have never helped any customer to avoid [tax] payments, nor have I offered tax advice or ever prompted anyone to do such things,” he told the Tages-Anzeiger. “I also had no knowledge that this was being done [by others]. It was a very small number of advisors who violated the guidelines.”
Weil refused to comment on criminal tax evasion charges laid against him in a separate case by French prosecutors in October.
Weil was a top executive at UBS, in charge of global wealth management operations, when the bank was indicted in the US on tax evasion charges and fined $780 million in 2009. The UBS case opened the floodgates to a series of criminal actions against other Swiss banks and an eventual political deal with the Swiss government to permanently resolve the issue.
At present, 57 Swiss banks have paid fines for past tax offences to the US authorities under the terms of the 2013 non-prosecution pact between the two countries. Several other banks have already faced criminal prosecution.