Swiss Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. admitted that it helped many of its U.S. clients evade U.S. taxes, and agreed to pay US$547 million, U.S. prosecutors announced on Thursday.
If the Zurich-based bank abides by all of the terms of the agreement, the U.S. government will defer prosecution for three years, and then seek to dismiss the charges.
Separately, two former Julius Baer bankers have agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS, to evade federal income taxes, and to file false federal income tax returns, prosecutors say. The former bankers, Daniela Casadei, 52, and Fabio Frazzetto, 42, who were originally charged back in 2011, are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 12.
According to prosecutors, the bank conspired with U.S. clients by opening and maintaining undeclared accounts for them, and by allowing third-party asset managers to open undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers at the bank. The bank also advised its bankers to take certain steps to avoid scrutiny from U.S. authorities when travelling to the U.S., as well as steps to avoid U.S. law enforcement identifying its clients.
From at least the 1990s through 2009, the bank helped many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients evade their U.S. tax obligations, file false federal tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and otherwise hide accounts held at Julius Baer from the IRS, according to prosecutors.
At its peak in 2007, the Swiss bank had approximately US$4.7 billion in assets under management from approximately 2,589 undeclared accounts held by U.S. clients, prosecutors say. And between 2001 and 2011, the bank earned approximately US$87 million in profit on those accounts, prosecutors add.
“The agreement — as well as the guilty pleas of client advisors Daniela Casadei and Fabio Frazzetto — sends a strong message to the international banking community as well as U.S. taxpayers who think they can outsmart the system by hiding their money in these international banks. The consequences of not reporting your foreign accounts and paying the taxes you owe will be significant for those who do not heed the warnings that agreements like this yield,” says Richard Weber, chief, Internal Revenue Service – criminal investigation, in a statement.