Three Swiss bankers were charged Tuesday with hiding more than $1.2 billion in U.S. taxpayer accounts from the IRS, by Preet Bharar, the Manhattan U.S. Attorney.
Michael Berlinka, Urs Frei And Roger Keller allegedly conspired with some U.S. taxpayers and others to hide Swiss bank accounts and the income generated from them while working as client advisers for a Swiss bank, according to a press release from Bharar's office. The three worked on dozens of undeclared bank accounts in 2008 and 2009 in an effort to scoop up business lost by UBS and another Swiss bank following reports that UBS was helping U.S. account holders evade taxes, according to the press release.
The case has been assigned to Judge Jed Rakoff, according to the release.
The three bankers allegedly helped U.S. clients open using sham corporation names in other countries as well as used code names and numbers on undeclared accounts to minimize references to the clients' actual names, according to the press release. In addition, they allegedly made sure that any mail related to the accounts wasn't sent to clients at their U.S. addresses and communicated using their personal email accounts to avoid detection, among other allegations, according to the release.
The charges come as tensions between Switzerland and the U.S. are rising over Swiss bank secrecy -- a result of a Swiss law that prevents Swiss bankers from revealing client information, according to Reuters. Swiss banks hold an estimated $2 trillion in offshore wealth and the U.S. Justice Department is investigating 11 Swiss banks suspected of helping wealthy Americans evade through Swiss accounts.