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Two Swiss charged in US for aiding tax evasion

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Two Swiss charged in US for aiding tax evasion
US Attorney Preet Bharara. Photo: US Federal Government
10:28 CEST+02:00
The US justice department has charged a Swiss banker and a Swiss lawyer with helping American citizens evade paying taxes by stashing millions of dollars in secret offshore accounts.

Stefan Buck, the head of private banking for a Swiss bank and Edgar Paltzer, a partner with a Swiss law firm, were each charged with a count of conspiracy in an indictment filed in New York on Tuesday.

In a press release, the US Attorney’s Office for the southern district of New York said the pair were charged with conspiring with US taxpayer-clients and others to hide millions of dollars in offshore accounts from the IRS (the Internal Revenue Service, America’s tax collector) and to evade US taxes on the income earned in those accounts.

Paltzer and Buck “used their professional expertise to guide and encourage their US clients to evade our tax laws,” said Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara.

“This is simply the latest in an increasingly long list of cases this office has charged against foreign individuals and entities that allegedly conspired to violate US tax laws.”

Bharara featured on the front cover of Time magazine last year with the headline, "This man is busting Wall Street", for his office's pursuit of financial fraud.

Reuters reported that Zurich-based Bank Frey lists Buck as its head of private banking and a member of its executive board on its website.

In March 2009, Switzerland’s largest bank UBS agreed to pay $780 million to settle charges brought by the US justice department.

The country’s oldest bank, Wegelin & Co, pleaded guilty earlier this year to helping wealthy Americans evade taxes and was sentenced to pay penalties of $58 million.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office said Buck's bank experienced an increase of 300 percent in US taxpayers as clients between the time of UBS's settlement and Wegelin's indictment in February 2012.

Around $938 million, or 44 percent, of the bank's $2.1 billion in managed assets as of September 2012 was held by US taxpayers, prosecutors said.

Buck and Paltzer opened and managed undeclared accounts for US clients who were informed by other Swiss banks that they had to close their undeclared accounts there, authorities added.

According to the allegations, Paltzer, 56, is a US- and Swiss-trained lawyer who began practicising at a Swiss law firm in 1998 and eventually became a partner.

He is a US and Swiss citizen.

Buck, 32, is a Swiss citizen.

Both men live in Switzerland and neither of them has been arrested.

The allegations against the pair have yet to be proved in a court of law.

American authorities say they face a maximum sentence of five years in prison, a maximum term of three years’ “supervised release” and a fine of at least $250,000.

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