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Saturday, January 5, 2013

Switzerland's Oldest Private Bank to Close Due to U.S. Tax Evasion Case

Victory over Switzerland! From France 24:
Switzerland's oldest private bank, Wegelin & Co, said Thursday that it is going out of business after pleading guilty to charges of helping American citizens avoid US taxes. It remains unclear whether the bank will reveal the names of its US clients.

Wegelin admitted to charges of conspiracy in helping Americans evade taxes on at least $1.2 billion for nearly a decade. Wegelin agreed to pay $57.8 million to the United States in restitution and fines.
When Wegelin last February became the first foreign bank in recent memory to be indicted by U.S. authorities, it vowed to resist the charges. The bank, founded in 1741, was declared a fugitive from justice when its Swiss-based executives failed to appear in U.S. court.

The surprise plea effectively ended the U.S. case against Wegelin, one of the most aggressive bank crackdowns in U.S. history.

“Once the matter is finally concluded, Wegelin will cease to operate as a bank,” Wegelin said in a statement on Thursday from its headquarters in the remote, small town of St. Gallen next to the Appenzell Alps near the German-Austrian border.

... Although Wegelin had about a dozen branches, all in Switzerland, at the time of its indictment, it moved quickly to wind down its business, partly through a sale of its non-U.S. assets to regional Swiss bank Raiffesen Gruppe.

... Dozens of Swiss bankers and their clients have been indicted in recent years, following a 2009 agreement by UBS AG, the largest Swiss bank, to enter into a deferred-prosecution agreement, turn over 4,450 client names and pay a $780 million fine after admitting to criminal wrongdoing in selling tax-evasion services to wealthy Americans.

Banks under U.S. criminal investigation in the wider probe include Credit Suisse, which disclosed last July it had received a target letter saying it was under a grand jury investigation.

Zurich-based Julius Baer and some cantonal, or regional, banks are also under scrutiny, sources familiar with the probes previously told Reuters. So are UK-based HSBC Holdings and three Israeli banks, Hapoalim, Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank Ltd and Bank Leumi, sources also said previously.

Those banks have not commented on the inquiries.
I used to laugh when anyone referred to the U.S. as having imperial ambitions. While I don't support tax evasion, I find this extra-territorial exercise of legal jurisdiction very disturbing.

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