Thursday, June 11, 2015

2 More Swiss Banks Cave and Turn Over Names to the DOJ Bring the Total to 23 Banks!

We have previously posted on Friday, May 29, 2015 "4 More Swiss Banks Cave to IRS Pressure" where we discussed that the U.S. Department of Justice, in exchange for $2.2 million in payments, agreed not to press criminal charges on four (4) Swiss banks accused of hiding millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money from the Internal Revenue Service. Societe Generale Private Banking SA, MediBank AG, LBBW AG and Scobag Privatbank AG agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department in its ongoing probe of tax evasion in the Swiss banking industry in return for the nonprosecution agreements.

Now the Department of Justice DoJ announced on June 9, 2015 that two banks, Société Générale Private Banking (Suisse) SA (SGPB-Suisse) and Berner Kantonalbank AG (BEKB), have reached resolutions under the department’s Swiss Bank Program.    

“The days of safely hiding behind shell corporations and numbered bank accounts 
are over,” 
said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo 
of the Department of Justice’s Tax Division.
“As each additional bank signs up under the Swiss Bank Program, More and More Information Is Flowing  to the IRS Agents and Justice Department Prosecutors going after  Illegally Concealed Offshore Accounts and the Financial Professionals who help U.S. Taxpayers Hide Assets Abroad.”

In accordance with the terms of the Swiss Bank Program, each bank mitigated its penalty by encouraging U.S. accountholders to come into compliance with their U.S. tax and disclosure obligations.  While U.S. accountholders at these banks who have not yet declared their accounts to the IRS may still be eligible to participate in the IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program, the price of such disclosure has increased.

Under the program, banks are required to:
  • Make a complete disclosure of their cross-border activities;
  • Provide detailed information on an account-by-account basis for accounts in which U.S. taxpayers have a direct or indirect interest;
  • Cooperate in treaty requests for account information;
  • Provide detailed information as to other banks that transferred funds into secret accounts or that accepted funds when secret accounts were closed (a/k/a Levers List);
  • Agree to close accounts of account holders who fail to come into compliance with U.S. reporting obligations; and
  • Pay appropriate penalties.
Banks meeting all of the above requirements are eligible for a non-prosecution agreement.

SGPB-Suisse has had a presence in Switzerland since 1926, and had a U.S.-licensed representative office in Miami from the early 1990s until it closed on Aug. 26, 2013.  SGPB-Suisse opened and maintained accounts for account holders who had U.S. tax reporting obligations, and was aware that U.S. taxpayers had a legal duty to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and pay taxes on all of their income, including income earned in SGPB-Suisse accounts.  SGPB-Suisse knew that it was likely that certain U.S. taxpayers who maintained accounts at the bank were not complying with their U.S. income tax obligations.

SGPB-Suisse’s U.S. cross-border banking business aided and assisted some U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts in Switzerland and concealing the assets and income the clients held in their accounts from the IRS.  SGBP-Suisse used a variety of means to assist U.S. clients in hiding their assets and income, including opening and maintaining accounts for U.S. taxpayers in the name of non-U.S. entities, including sham entities, thereby assisting such U.S. taxpayers in concealing their beneficial ownership of the accounts.  Such entities included Panama and British Virgin Island corporations, as well as Liechtenstein foundations.  In two instances, an SGPB-Suisse employee acted as a director of entities that had U.S. taxpayers as beneficial owners.  In another instance, upon the death of the beneficial owner of an entity, the heirs opened accounts held by sham entities at SGPB-Suisse to receive their shares of the assets from the entity account.

SGPB-Suisse further provided numbered accounts, allowing the accountholder to replace his or her identity with a code name or number on documents sent to the client, and held statements and other mail at its offices in Switzerland, rather than sending them to the U.S. taxpayers in the United States.  In addition to these services, SGPB-Suisse:
  • Processed requests from U.S. taxpayers for cash or gold withdrawals so as not to trigger any transaction reporting requireents;
  • Processed requests from U.S. taxpayers to transfer funds from U.S.-related accounts at SGPB-Suisse to accounts at subsidiaries in Lugano, Switzerland, and the Bahamas;
  • Opened accounts for U.S. taxpayers who had left UBS when the department was investigating that bank;
  • Processed requests from U.S. taxpayers to transfer assets from accounts being closed to other SGPB-Suisse accounts held by non-U.S. relatives and/or friends; and
  • Followed instructions from U.S. beneficial owners to transfer assets to corprate and individual accounts at other banks in Switzerland, Hong Kong, Israel, Lebanon, Liechtenstein and Cyprus.
Throughout its participation in the Swiss Bank Program, SGPB-Suisse committed to full cooperation with the U.S. government.  For example, SGPB-Suisse described in detail the structure of its U.S. cross-border business, including providing a list of the names and functions of individuals who structured, operated or supervised the cross-border business at SGPB-Suisse; a summary of U.S.-related accounts by assets under management; written narrative summaries of 98 U.S.-related accounts; and the circumstances surrounding the closure of relevant accounts holding cash or gold.  SGPB-Suisse also provided information to make treaty requests to the Swiss competent authority for U.S. client account records.

Since Aug. 1, 2008, SGPB-Suisse held and managed approximately 375 U.S.-related accounts, which included both declared and undeclared accounts, with a peak of assets under management of approximately $660 million.  SGPB-Suisse will pay a penalty of $17.807 million.

BEKB was founded in 1834 as Kantonalbank von Bern, the first Swiss cantonal bank.  BEKB is based in the Canton of Bern and presently has 73 branches in Switzerland.  BEKB knew or had reason to know that it was likely that some U.S. taxpayers who maintained accounts at BEKB were not complying with their U.S. reporting obligations.  BEKB opened, serviced and profited from accounts for U.S. clients who were not complying with their income tax obligations.

BEKB provided services that facilitated some U.S. clients in opening and maintaining undeclared accounts in Switzerland and concealing the assets in those accounts and related income.  These services included opening and maintaining numbered accounts, allowing clients to use code names rather than full account numbers and providing hold mail services.  BEKB opened accounts for account holders who exited other Swiss banks and accepted deposits of funds from those banks.  BEKB also processed standing orders from U.S. persons to transfer amounts under $10,000 from their U.S.-related accounts.  In one instance, a relationship manager asked an accountholder, who was a dual Swiss-U.S. citizen living in the United States, about the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and voluntary disclosure.  When the accountholder failed to execute FATCA-related documents, BEKB took steps to close the account.  In connection with that closing, the accountholder withdrew $70,000 and approximately 500,000 Swiss francs in cash.

BEKB committed to full cooperation with the U.S. government throughout its participation in the Swiss Bank Program.  As part of its cooperation, BEKB provided a list of the names and functions of 16 individuals who structured, operated or supervised its cross-border business.  These individuals served as the chairman of the board of directors, members of the executive board, regional managers, heads of departments or heads of divisions.  BEKB additionally provided information concerning its relationship managers and external asset managers, and it described in detail the structure of its cross-border business with U.S. persons, including narrative descriptions of high-value U.S.-related accounts and U.S.-related accounts held by entities.

Since Aug. 1, 2008, BEKB held approximately 720 U.S.-related accounts, which included both undeclared and not undeclared accounts, with total assets of approximately $176.5 million.  BEKB will pay a penalty of $4.619 million.
Do You Have Undeclared Income from One of these Banks
 Who Are Handing Over Names to the IRS?

Want to Know if the OVDP Program is Right for You?

Contact the Tax Lawyers at
Marini & Associates, P.A.  

for a FREE Tax Consultation
Toll Free at 888-8TaxAid (888) 882-9243

No comments:

Post a Comment