A former Swiss banker accused of helping rich Americans dodge taxes, may be cooperating with a broad U.S. government investigation of Swiss banks for providing tax evasion services, lawyers said on Wednesday.
Speculation that Christos Bagios is working with the United States arose after the ex-employee of Swiss banks Credit Suisse AG and UBS AG arranged a change-of-plea hearing following his pleading not-guilty in a U.S. federal court to new charges of aiding tax evasion.
Bagios is a central figure in the probe by the U.S. Department of Justice into offshore tax evasion services sold by Swiss and Swiss-style banks.
Some lawyers said he is likely preparing to plead guilty as part of a cooperation deal with the DOJ, a move that could pile pressure on Swiss banks targeted by the investigation.
"The fact that he has waived his right to indictment means it is very likely he will change his plea" to guilty next week, said Lawrence Brown, a tax lawyer in Fort Worth, Texas, with offshore clients. Brown added that the move would help the government's investigation.
If this is true it will push Credit Suisse further toward having to deal with the U.S. government.
Bagios, a Greek citizen and Swiss resident, was a senior private banker at Credit Suisse at the time of his arrest by U.S. authorities in January 2011. Credit Suisse, Switzerland's second-largest bank, disclosed in July 2011 that it was being investigated by the Justice Department. The investigation swelled after UBS, Switzerland's largest bank, paid $780 million and entered into a deferred-prosecution agreement, now ended, with U.S. authorities in 2009.
Eleven banks are under investigation, and dozens of Swiss bankers and American clients have been indicted in recent years.
Bagios and his co-conspirators, court papers alleged, also told some UBS clients wishing to sneak hidden money back into the United States that they needed to "wash" their undisclosed assets back into the banking system, by transferring small, undetectable amounts into their declared UBS accounts.
The fresh charges asserted that Bagios worked with a group of co-conspirators. They include Hansruedi Schumacher, a former top UBS private banker who later worked at Neue Zurcher Bank and was indicted in the United States in 2009; Renzo Gadola, a former top UBS private banker who pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and conspiracy in December 2010; and Martin Lack, a former top UBS private banker who was indicted in August 2011.
At the time of his arrest in New York and subsequent transfer to Florida, Bagios was head of Credit Suisse's Relationship Management West Coast group, a private banking unit, according to the bank's website.
According to BNA —Officials at the Internal Revenue Service have made it a priority to expand its continuing investigations into offshore tax evasion to countries beyond Switzerland, the chief of the IRS Criminal Investigation division said Oct. 18.
Richard Weber, a career prosecutor who assumed his IRS post in May, said that in the near future officials hope to announce charges in pending cases that will allege schemes to hide offshore assets in countries other than Switzerland and Liechtenstein, which so far have been the primary focus.
The new cases, Weber said, will “show additional progress” in cracking down on offshore tax evasion.
“We’ve made it a significant priority to expand to other countries, and we have agents doing that now,” he told a money laundering conference sponsored by the Foundation for Accounting Education of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants.
If you have Unreported Income From Swiss Banks or are a Swiss Bank Employee under investigation, contact the Tax Lawyers at Marini & Associates, P.A. for a FREE Tax Consultation at www.TaxAid.us orwww.TaxLaw.ms or Toll Free at 888-8TaxAid (888 882-9243).