Dozens of Indicted Swiss Bankers Still at Large
April 23, 2015
As the Department of Justice continues its efforts to prosecute individuals involved in offshore tax evasion, approximately two dozen indicted Swiss bankers remain fugitives in Switzerland.
Although the United States and Switzerland have an extradition treaty, Switzerland will not extradite individuals accused of tax crimes. While these individuals are free to live their normal lives in Switzerland, they risk being arrested and extradited to the United States if they leave Swiss soil. This has already happened to two of the fugitives.
In 2013, Raoul Weil was arrested when he checked into a hotel in Italy under his own name, triggering an alert to Italian authorities. After being extradited to the United States, the former UBS executive was acquitted on all counts. Weil was considered the biggest fish in the Department of Justice’s offshore crackdown, and his acquittal made him a “national hero” back home, according to one Swiss newspaper.
A reporter for Bloomberg, Jesse Drucker, recently travelled to Switzerland to meet with some of these indicted bankers. One of these men is Stefan Buck, formerly Bank Frey & Co.’s head of private banking in Switzerland. When asked if he travels outside Switzerland, Buck replied that when he does, he does not travel by plane. He has refused to travel to the U.S. to face charges, fearing that he will be denied bail while awaiting trial. However, his attorneys have continued efforts to secure a bail package for him before he arrives in the U.S. Prosecutors previously offered Buck a plea agreement that would include a sentencing recommendation of probation, but it was turned down. Following the high profile acquittal of Weil and the relatively light sentences other Swiss bankers have received recently, we expect more of these fugitives to come forward and face charges in the U.S., rather than resigning to live the rest of their lives as fugitives in Switzerland.
For all its efforts, the U.S. government has convinced more than 50,000 taxpayers to voluntarily disclose their offshore accounts and pay billions in civil penalties, in addition to years of back-taxes with interest. With the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act recently coming into effect, the noose is tightening around taxpayers who still have not disclosed their offshore accounts. Failure to participate in either the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) or the new Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures exposes taxpayers to substantial civil penalties and potential criminal prosecution.