As the U.S. government's much publicized crackdown on Swiss banks continues, they may be turning their focus to Southeast Asia, where a Singaporean asset-management firm has fallen under criminal investigation. The firm is suspected of accepting transfers from U.S. taxpayers who were forced to shut down their undeclared Swiss accounts when those Swiss banks came under criminal investigation.
Federal prosecutors faced a three-judge panel in an effort to replace the probation sentence of Beanie Babies founder Ty Warner with prison time after the billionaire was found guilty for failing to report more than $24 million to the Internal Revenue Service.
After several months of investigation, U.S. prosecutors are closer to obtaining a guilty plea, as well as an agreement with Credit Suisse Group AG to pay over $1 billion to settle claims that the bank aided wealthy Americans in evading taxes.
Andreas Bachmann, former banker at Credit Suisse Group, pleaded guilty on Wednesday, March 10th, of helping Americans conceal their money in offshore Swiss accounts. Offering his services to dozens of Americans with Swiss bank accounts, Bachmann carried around large sums of cash on flights between the United States and Switzerland. Bachmann acted as a "personal ATM" for these Americans, often taking deposits of one client and using them to fund a withdrawal for a different client. Bachmann testified that it was all to help his customers avoid U.S. taxes, however, he agreed to cooperate fully with the U.S. government as they investigate the banks and their employees for aiding tax evasion.
With the recent global crackdown on tax evasion in full swing, Standard Chartered PLC is seeking a buyer for its Swiss private bank put on the block by Italian insurance giant Assicrazioni Generali SpA.
Switzerland's finance minister told a Swiss newspaper that the country planned to adopt a much more friendly position in regards to sharing bank client data with foreign tax authorities much more quickly than originally thought and cannot hold back until all other countries have introduced the practice.
Swiss banks seeking non-prosecution agreements ran out of time to apply for the US Department of Justice's (DOJ) amnesty program on December 31, 2013. Before the amnesty program closed, the DOJ announced that 106 banks sent letters of intent to participate. Banks that made it into the program will be required to provide the DOJ with information pertaining to US account holders and advisors affiliated with US-related accounts and will be required to pay penalties tied to the balance of the US-related accounts no later than April 30, 2014 (unless a 60-day extension is granted).
More than 100 Swiss banks and other financial institutions are expected to seek non-prosecution agreements and provide U.S. authorities with information regarding clients suspected of offshore tax evasion. The announcement, given by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn Keneally, gave insight as to exactly how many Swiss banks are expected reveal how they assisted U.S. clients evade taxes, provide financial data about those clients, and pay any fines that may come as a result.
Ty Warner, the billionaire responsible for the creation of the popular Beanie Babies toy is hoping that a federal judge will show mercy and sentence him to probation rather than prison for tax evasion. The 69-year-old acknowledged that he failed to report millions of dollars of interest income from an overseas Swiss bank account as he pleaded guilty to a single count of felony tax evasion in October.
Swiss banks are moving as quickly as possible to inspect account data with masses of lawyers and auditors at their sides in an attempt to meet a 31 December deadline set by the US Justice Department on an amnesty for institutions who admit to breaking America's tax laws. Under this program, Switzerland's banks who believe they may have violated US tax laws must reveal hidden American assets to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), hand over those accounts, and pay whatever penalties may follow. In exchange for their cooperation, the US Justice Department will drop all charges against the banks.