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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Feds Go After|Two Swiss Bankers

MANHATTAN (CN) - Two Swiss bankers acting as "full service tax evasion advisers" helped well-heeled Americans hide $267 million in secret bank accounts, relied on clandestine, street-corner meetings to transfer bags full of cash, and one even used a child as a money courier, federal prosecutors said.

In separate indictments, the U.S. attorney's office charged Hans Thomann, 61, a former private banker at financial giant UBS AG, and Josef Beck, 46, who worked with Verwaltungen AG, an independent advisory firm in Zurich. They are charged with multiple counts of conspiring to help Americans evade U.S. taxes and operating unlicensed money transmitting businesses.

"We will not tolerate this type of conduct," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Wednesday. "These indictments demonstrate that the United States remains committed to bringing to justice U.S. citizens who violate federal tax laws and the foreign bankers and advisors who aid them in doing so."

If convicted, each man faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain derived from each offense.

Prosecutors said Thomann, who worked at UBS from 1993 to 2003, handled 32 accounts holding $138 million, and helped the holders of at least 13 of them transfer their accounts to Wegelin & Co. and other Swiss banks after U.S. authorities began pressuring his employer to name the names of account holders, thus revealing their tax-dodging strategies.

Thomann also is accused of helping clients transfer accounts to the Swiss branch of an Israeli Bank, which prosecutors have not identified.

Beck managed 35 accounts worth about $129 million for wealthy U.S. clients, according to the indictment.

Both men, whose acts were committed independently, carried out much of their illicit business from expensive Manhattan hotels, prosecutors said.

Beck is accused of the most eye-opening transfer of cash - allegedly involving a 5-year-old child.

"Within weeks thereafter, a person unknown to client 2 ... provided client 2 with instructions to retrieve the $150,000 in cash," according to the indictment. "The unknown person did not identify himself and stated to client 2 that the unknown person had 'something' for client 2, a reference that client 2 understood to be the cash that client 2 had arranged with Josef Beck, the defendant, to withdraw from client 2's undeclared account. Client 2 was instructed by the unknown person to proceed to a specified address in Brooklyn, New York, at a particular time. Client 2 followed the instructions. Upon Client 2's arrival by car at the specified address, a small child of approximately five years of age exited from the home located at the specified address, walked up to client 2's car, and handed client 2 a brown paper bag containing approximately $150,000 in cash."

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