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Swiss Banks Giving Up Employees to IRS

Looking for leniency in tax evasion investigation, banks surrender data

Thousands of employees of Swiss banks are finding that their employers are hanging them out to dry in exchange for hoped-for leniency in connection with American accounts involved in a tax evasion investigation.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that several Swiss banks so far have turned over data that included telephone records and e-mails for employees who were within Swiss law but in violation of U.S. law in setting up accounts for U.S. citizens who were then able to evade taxes.

Swiss bank Wegelin & Co. was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice Other Swiss banks have seen their country’s tradition of secrecy worn down as the DOJ continued to pursue its investigation. Swiss companies are forbidden to turn over evidence in foreign legal proceedings; however, the Federal Council made an exception in April after the Swiss government was petitioned by numerous banks in the matter.

UBS headquarters in Zurich. (Photo: AP)As a result, the council gave its consent to allow banks to surrender the names of staff members, a move that Alec Reymond, a former president of the Geneva Bar Association, called illegal in the report. Reymond is representing two members of Credit Suisse’s staff.

According to estimates, at least five banks have given up the data on up to 10,000 employees to pacify U.S. authorities. He also said banks have turned over not just correspondence, but also copies of their employees’ passports.

Credit Suisse said that it had been authorized to surrender staff names by the Swiss government. Marc Dosch, a bank spokesman, said in the report, “Credit Suisse provided the U.S. authorities with internal business documents that show how it ran its U.S. cross-border business. The large majority of Credit Suisse employees complied with the applicable laws and regulations and have nothing to fear.”

Julius Baer and Zuercher Kantonalbank also said they were authorized to take the action. HSBC said it is cooperating with U.S. authorities and has also turned over documents. Credit Suisse, HSBC and Julius Baer have all said they expect to resolve the issue by paying fines.

“I don’t think anybody understood back in 2006 when they were going after UBS the full extent to which the DOJ and IRS would pursue this,” said Jeffrey Morse in the report. Morse, a Geneva-based lawyer at Withers LLP, added, “We now live in a world where banks are willing to break local laws if they deem it helpful in defending against the IRS.”

Eric Delissy, who headed the legal department at HSBC’s Swiss unit from 1998 to 2003, said in the report, “We didn’t even have any U.S. clients back then. I feel betrayed.” Delissy said that because his name was among those sent to the U.S., he now expects to be arrested if he travels outside Switzerland.

If you have have Unreported Income From a Foreign Bank or are a one of the estimated 10,000 Former Employees of a Foreign Bank, contact the Tax Lawyers at Marini & Associates, P.A. for a FREE Tax and/or Criminal Consultation at or or Toll Free at 888-8TaxAid (888 882-9243).

Read more at: Tax Times blog

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