Israel has had its differences with Switzerland’s banks over the years, but recently they’ve patched things up a bit. Israelis and other descendants of Holocaust victims got $1.25 billion and some other help retrieving assets stowed in the Alps before and during World War II, and Israel’s gotten some help ferreting out Israelis who are still doing it. And, it comes to pass, Israel’s largest bank may have learned everything it knows about banking from its Swiss forebears.
Bank Hapoalim BM entered into a three-year deferred-prosecution agreement, while the bank’s Swiss subsidiary—Bank Hapoalim Switzerland, or BHS—pleaded guilty to tax evasion. The banks admitted to helping customers set up secret accounts, shelter assets and income, and evade taxes for the period from 2002 to 2014, according to the court filings.
The $874 million in payments to federal and New York state authorities marks the second-largest recovery by the Department of Justice arising from investigations into offshore U.S. tax evasion by foreign banks, authorities said.
And that’s not all Hapoalim picked up from the Swiss!
Hapoalim began to cooperate with the Justice Department investigation in late 2014, but its initial cooperation was “deficient, marked by an inadequate internal investigation, the failure to timely disclose relevant facts, and the provision of incomplete and, in some cases, inaccurate information and data,” according to the agreement, which was filed in federal court. For example, the Justice Department said that in 2016 it found evidence of criminal misconduct by a senior BHS executive and a board member with no assistance from Hapoalim.