A Belgian magistrate judge is investigating whether the Swiss bank UBS engaged in fraud, money laundering and other crimes in an effort to help wealthy individuals avoid taxes, the Brussels prosecutor’s office said on Friday. UBS is suspected of having directly approached Belgian customers, without going through its Belgian subsidiary, to encourage clients to engage in transactions meant to evade taxes. UBS acknowledged the inquiry, but it said little more. [Dealbook]
It's Possible A Bunch Of Employees At UBS Deutschland Helped Clients Evade German Taxes
The bank has ran its own internal investigation and found no evidence of wrongdoing but prosecutors are still going to take a look-see themselves. The investigation, being conducted by economic-crimes prosecutors in Mannheim, was started in March against unnamed employees after a tax inquiry in the southwestern state of Baden Wuerttemberg identified suspicious transfers of funds from Germany to Switzerland, allegedly executed by a German taxpayer with the assistance of the Frankfurt-based office of UBS Deutschland AG...In May, prosecutors seized more than 100,000 computer files and other records during a search of the bank's Frankfurt office, Mr. Lintz said. Tax investigators are assessing this material to identify evidence that bank officials acted as accessories to tax evasion, he said. In its statement, UBS Deutschland said that "an internal investigation into the specific allegations has not identified any evidence of misbehavior by UBS Deutschland AG." It said it is cooperating with the criminal investigation. Several investigations of UBS clients in Germany are under way by local prosecutors independent of the Mannheim investigation, Mr. Lintz said. He declined to say how many clients are under investigation. A report in the Thursday edition of German newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten said thousands of bank clients are under investigation. Mr. Lintz declined to confirm that figure. Germany Probes UBS Staff on Tax-Evasion Allegations [WSJ]
UBS Whistleblower's $104 Million Award Poses Interesting Conundrum For Would-Be Snitches
Remember Bradley Birkenfeld? He's the guy who single-handedly made the U.S. government’s case against UBS and forced the Swiss bank to hand over the names of thousands of tax cheats, which resulted in the US scoring $780 million from UBS and may have inspired some 33,000 Americans to "voluntarily disclose offshore accounts to the IRS, generating more than $5 billion." And yet, despite his assistance, Birkenfeld wasn't immediately thanked for a job well done. Instead, he was sentenced to forty months in prison (fair-ish, considering he showed a few clients how to avoid paying taxes himself) and told to piss off by the Internal Revenue Service, from whom he sought an award, because he was "not forthcoming about his own role in the scheme," even as a Justice Department attorney admitted that "...without Mr. Birkenfeld walking into the door of the Department of Justice in the summer of 2007, I doubt as of today that this massive fraud would have been discovered by the US government" (or as his lawyer put it, "They didn't know how to spell UBS until he showed up. He didn't just give them a piece of the puzzle. He gave them the entire puzzle"). Now, after doing 32 months at Schuylkill Federal Correctional Institution, getting let out early on account of "good-time credit," and living in a halfway house in New Hampshire, Birkenfeld has finally been thrown a bone. Bradley Birkenfeld, the former UBS AG banker who told the Internal Revenue Service how the bank helped thousands of Americans evade taxes, secured an IRS award of $104 million, an amount his lawyers said may be the largest ever for a U.S. whistle-blower. Birkenfeld told authorities how UBS bankers came to the U.S. to woo rich Americans, managed $20 billion of their assets, and helped them cheat the IRS. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2008, a year after reporting the bank’s conduct to the Justice Department, U.S. Senate, IRS and Securities and Exchange Commission. He was released from prison Aug. 1...Birkenfeld, 47, worked at Zurich-based UBS, the largest Swiss bank, for five years. He sought a reward from the IRS of as much as 30 percent of any taxes the agency recovered as a result of his whistle-blowing activities. Clearly this whole thing should stir up a few questions inside you all, chief among them: how much money would it take to get you to befriend or get yourself employed with some rogue people so you can blow the whistle on them? Would you do any time for it? If so, how much? And are we talking Club Fed or a place where your roommate spoons you every night? UBS Whistle-Blower Secures $104 Million Award From IRS [Bloomberg]
UBS Tax-Evasion Clients Keeping German Prosecutors Busy
2000 tax-avoiders should gird their loins right about now.