Three Swiss Bankers Charged for Conspiracy to Defraud the United States by Helping Americans Keep Secret Foreign Accounts

Jan 09, 2012   

On January 3, 2012, a grand jury sitting in the Southern District of New York returned an indictment charging Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei, and Roger Keller with conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. section 371.  The indictment alleges that the three Defendants worked at a Swiss Bank that actively solicited American taxpayers who were fleeing UBS in the wake of the 2008 Department of Justice investigation and deferred prosecution agreement against UBS.

The indictment alleges that the Defendants sought to take advantage of the UBS investigation by offering to allow American taxpayers to open bank accounts that would not be disclosed to the IRS.  American taxpayers maintaining financial accounts abroad have an obligation under Title 31 of the United States Code to file Form TD90-22.1 (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBAR”)), available here, with the United States Treasury Department.  The willful failure to file an FBAR form is a felony.  The Defendants, according to the indictment, gave as part of their sales pitch to prospective clients assurances that the bank accounts would not be disclosed because the bank had a long tradition of bank secrecy and did not have offices outside of Switzerland.   The Defendants opened accounts at the bank in the name of sham corporations and foundations in jurisdictions that the IRS considers to be tax havens.

In order to ensure that the accounts would remain secret, account holders names were not used, statements  were not mailed to the United States, and emails were sent from personal accounts instead of business email accounts, all with the aim of reducing the risk of detection by U.S. law enforcement.  To that end, according to the indictment, the Defendants used a third-party website called “SwissPrivateBank.com” to solicit new business from American taxpayers.  The indictment goes on to detail, without naming, various individuals who had accounts opened by the Defendants with the aim of avoiding IRS detection and to avoid income tax obligations.     

A full copy of the indictment is available here

The attorneys at Fuerst Ittleman have experience with IRS and Department of Justice investigations of U.S. taxpayers who have unreported income and undeclared foreign bank accounts.  You can reach an attorney by emailing us at:  contact@fidjlaw.com, or by calling us at  305.350.5690.