U.S. seeks to dismiss UBS criminal tax evasion case

Editor’s Note: Once again, the real criminals get away with murder while average citizens will face jail time for minor tax evasion — Justice in the land of the free.

Jonathan Stempel

The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking to dismiss a criminal prosecution against UBS AG that led to the Swiss bank paying a $780 million penalty and admitting it helped wealthy U.S. clients evade taxes.

In a filing on Friday in the U.S. district court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, prosecutors said UBS has complied with an 18-month agreement to defer prosecution, after helping roughly 17,000 clients with $20 billion of assets hide their accounts from the Internal Revenue Service.

As part of the February 2009 settlement, Zurich-based UBS handed over names on more than 250 client accounts and ended its U.S. cross-border banking business.

It later revealed data on some 4,450 additional accounts and the government said UBS is continuing to cooperate.

“UBS AG has fully complied with all of its obligations,” senior litigation counsel Kevin Downing wrote in the filing. “The United States believes that dismissal is appropriate.”

The settlement is considered a landmark in cracking Switzerland’s famed bank secrecy. Dismissal of the case requires court approval.

UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne declined to comment.

“The UBS prosecution was historic and unique, and is a high point in government tax enforcement,” said Peter Hardy, a partner at Post & Schell PC in Philadelphia and former prosecutor. “It has resulted in a systemic change in how Switzerland views foreigners holding assets in their banks.”

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