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Lawyer Pleads Guilty as Swiss Bank-Secrecy Tension Grows

A Swiss tax lawyer admitted to helping wealthy Americans hide millions of dollars, as secrecy behind Swiss banks continues to unravel. Edgar Paltzer, a lawyer who used to work at Zurich-based Niederer Kraft & Frey Ltd., reached a deal with U.S. prosecutors who continue to crack down on Americans attempting to hide their money overseas.

"Knowing my conduct was a violation of U.S. law, I nonetheless agreed with the U.S. taxpayers to help them commit these crimes," Mr. Paltzer said at a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.

U.S. prosecutors claim that Mr. Paltzer conspired with Stefan Buck, the onetime head of private banking at Zurich's Bank Frey & Co. AG, to help U.S. citizens and others evade taxes by hiding money in offshore accounts between 2000 and 2012. Mr. Buck has yet to appear in court to answer charges. Attempts to reach him have been unsuccessful.

As of 2012, 44% of the private bank's assets were from American taxpayers living in the U.S. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Cowley, Mr. Paltzer had access to vaults holding the assets of U.S. taxpayers and agreed not to access or allow others to access those vaults. Mr. Paltzer allegedly not only hid American accounts but also prepared fraudulent U.S. tax forms and communicated with his clients in code in order to disguise the crime.

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