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Swiss lawyer wanted in US family fraud case

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10:43 CEST+02:00

A British lawyer has been charged and a Swiss lawyer is wanted for questioning by the US tax authorities for allegedly helping a well-known American family to hide unpaid taxes in Swiss bank accounts.

The US authorities have found the wealthy Seggerman family in New York to have held significant undeclared funds offshore in foreign accounts. The funds were smuggled into the US in tranches in an elaborate tax-evasion plan, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

The head of the family, Harry Seggerman, the former vice-president of the Fidelity Investment Funds Group, died in 2001, leaving some $20 million to members of his family, with a significant portion being spread between offshore accounts at UBS Switzerland.

Following Harry Seggerman’s death, a family meeting was held in 2001 at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York. It is there that UK lawyer Michael Little is alleged to have presented the family members with a strategy to keep the funds hidden from the tax authorities, the New York Times reported.

A scheme was then set up whereby sums of money would be transferred to Britain and then changed into smaller sums or travellers’ cheques that could be brought discreetly back to the US.

Little, a 61-year-old lawyer, was arrested at Kennedy International Airport as he arrived from the UK on Thursday. He is the first UK lawyer to be held by the US authorities under such circumstances. If found guilty, he may be sentenced to up to five years in prison.

Suzanne Seggerman, one of the Seggerman daughters, is cooperating with the authorities as a witness. She has provided a number of details about the case, including details about the secret code words used in emails when communicating and notes taken from the original meeting in 2001.

A Swiss lawyer and a New Jersey accountant are also wanted for questioning by the prosecution services.

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