(CN) – A California man suspected of evading federal taxes by hiding money in a Swiss bank cannot invoke the Fifth Amendment to dodge a grand jury’s order for information about his foreign accounts, the 9th Circuit ruled.
The accused, identified in the federal appeals court’s ruling as M.H., refused to heed a grand jury subpoena demanding that he produce the names, numbers, locations and values of his foreign bank accounts – information that he is required to “keep and maintain for inspection” under federal banking law, according to the ruling.
M.H. argued that if he gave up the information he would risk incriminating himself in violation of the Fifth Amendment, as it might conflict with other information he had previously reported to the Internal Revenue Service. U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez, of California’s Southern District, held him contempt, ruling that the Fifth Amendment does not apply in this case because the records at issue must be maintained by law, specifically the Required Records Doctrine.
The 9th Circuit affirmed in a unanimous ruling Friday.
“Because the records sought through the subpoena fall under the Required Records Doctrine, the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination is inapplicable, and M.H. may not invoke it to resist compliance with the subpoena’s command,” Judge Richard Tallman wrote for the Pasadena-based appellate panel.
“Because the information being requested of M.H. is not inherently criminal, being required to provide that information would generally not establish a significant link in a chain of evidence tending to prove guilt,” Tallman added.