MIAMI (CN) — Author Bradley Birkenfeld sued Kevin Costner and cosmetics tycoon Leonard Lauder in federal court Thursday, claiming they tortiously interfered with publication of his book, “Lucifer’s Banker: The Untold Story of How I Destroyed Swiss Bank Secrecy.”
The book describes how the Swiss banking industry helped millionaires, allegedly including the defendants, use offshore accounts to hide assets. Birkenfeld claims that the segments that name Costner and Lauder were removed after they threatened legal action against the publisher company, Greenleaf Book Group.
According to the 31-page complaint: “The deletion substantially subtracted from Plaintiff’s portrait of American marquee tax cheats limned in the book, diminished the public interest in the book, its newsworthiness and global sales of “Lucifer’s Banker,” delayed its publication, caused Greenleaf to destroy tens of thousands of previously printed books, required plaintiff to shoulder the expense of hiring additional editors and legal counsel to again edit and review the altered manuscript, and occasioned an increase in Plaintiff’s literary insurance coverage to $3 million, all of which resulted in substantial monetary damage to plaintiff and to his reputation and brand.”
Birkenfeld claims that the censored portions named Costner and Lauder as members of an elite group that still have hidden assets with Swiss bank UBS. The book claims that after reaching a deferred agreement with the United States the bank was ordered to turn reveal the accounts of 19,000 Americans who were using the bank to evade taxes, but the bank named only 4,700. Birkenfeld claimed in the book that Costner and Lauder are among those whose names were withheld.
Birkenfeld says in the complaint that his manuscript, as written, said: “I gave [my attorneys] client names and account holdings that made their eyes pop: Igor Olenicoff, Kevin Costner, Leonard and Estée Lauder, Abdul Aziz Case, Page 7 of 31 Page 8 of 31 Abbas (a shady character with direct ties to Saddam Hussein), porn stars, prominent physicians, and one of Osama bin Laden’s biological brothers.” (Brackets and parentheses in complaint.)
Birkenfeld claims that his whistleblowing resulted in the largest IRS whistleblower award in history: $104 million, and that it helped bring 100,000 Americans into tax compliance and more than $20 million in recoveries from tax evaders.
He seeks damages and punitive damages for fraud and tortious interference.
He is represented by W. Bruce DelValle, with Fein & DelValle, of Washington, D.C.
Requests for comment from Costner and Lauder were not returned.