UBS banker indicted on Liechtenstein fraid charges

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Forbes has reported that:

A federal judge in Southern Florida today unsealed an indictment charging two foreign bankers, one a former private banker for UBS AG, with defrauding the U.S. by helping billionaire Orange County, Calf., real estate developer Igor M. Olenicoff evade U.S. taxes on $200 million hidden in Swiss and Liechtenstein bank accounts.

The charge is that:

in 2001, Birkenfeld's employer entered into a Qualified Intermediary agreement with the U.S. That agreement required UBS to identify any customers who received U.S. source income that was reportable to the Internal Revenue Service and to report that income. As part of the process, UBS agreed to have customers fill out IRS form W-8BEN, which requires foreign beneficial owners of bank accounts to be identified---a departure from historical Swiss bank secrecy laws.

But Birkenfeld and Staggl, the indictment alleges, defrauded the IRS by falsifying Swiss bank documents and W-8BENs, and by setting up "nominee entities" to hide the true ownership of assets. Staggl, according to the indictment, was the owner of New Haven Trust Company Ltd., a Liechtenstein trustee of accounts used to hide Olenicoff's ownership of assets.

I do not know if this is true, of course. Clearly someone does or the matter would not have got this far.

What I can say is this: I warmly welcome this approach. It is absolutely essential that those who supply corruption services are prosecuted. They commit economic crimes, even when they work for the largest banks and accountants and lawyers and must carry the responsibility for doing so. And so should their employers do so.

Only then will we bring these organisations to account for the activities they undertake in tax havens.

On which point, by the way, I still note that not one Big 4 firm has yet justified the existence of its Liechtenstein firm. I'm not surprised. There can be no ethical justification for being there.

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