February 11, 2015
Indicted Swiss Banker Arrested in Germany
A former Swiss banker who was indicted in the United States three years ago has been arrested in Germany and is expected to be extradited to the United States. Roger Keller, a former client advisor at Wegelin & Co, was indicted in 2012 for helping Americans hide more than $1.2 billion.
Keller is one of about 25 Swiss bankers who are currently considered fugitives by the United States. While Switzerland has an extradition agreement with the United States, they will not extradite individuals accused of tax crimes. Since the United States has issued international arrest warrants for these individuals, they face arrest if they travel outside Switzerland. In Keller’s case, he was arrested upon arrival in Frankfurt, Germany. Raoul Weil, a former executive at UBS AG and long considered the number one target in the area of offshore tax evasion, was arrested in 2013 during a trip to Italy. Weil was acquitted late last year, in a stinging defeat for the Department of Justice.
Keller and his co-conspirators are charged with conspiring to help Americans evade taxes. According to the indictment, the bank knowingly accepted false documents from American clients and set up sham entities to conceal the ownership of accounts. Keller ensured that account statements and related documents were not mailed to their clients in the United States. He also sent emails and Federal Express packages to potential clients in the U.S. in order to solicit business.
In 2008, when UBS came under investigation and notified American clients that their accounts would be closed, Wegelin allegedly solicited these clients and opened new undeclared accounts for them. Wegelin charged high fees for these clients due to the clients’ fears of prosecution in the United States.
Several U.S. taxpayers who came forward in the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative disclosed their Wegelin accounts. As part of the voluntary disclosure process, taxpayers are asked to disclose the identities of individuals at the banks who assisted them. Keller and his co-conspirators were named by several of these clients. In 2010, Wegelin stopped putting the names of client advisors in bank records, replacing the names with “Team International” or a similar designation.
Wegelin & Co, Switzerland’s oldest bank, was forced to shut down in 2013 after pleading guilty to tax charges in a United States District Court. A trial date has not been set for Keller.