A Swiss financial adviser has been charged with helping more than 60 U.S. taxpayers hide more than $184 million in Swiss bank accounts and move assets from UBS AG to other Swiss banks to avoid getting caught.
Beda Singenberger, owner of Zurich-based Sinco Treuhand AG, was indicted on a charge of conspiring to hide clients' income from the Internal Revenue Service from 1998 to 2009, the office of federal prosecutor Preet Bharara said.
The indictment came nearly 2-1/2 years after UBS avoided U.S. criminal prosecution by agreeing to pay a $780 million penalty and admitting it helped Americans hide income from the IRS. Criminal charges against the bank were formally dropped last October.
If convicted, Singenberger, 57, could face five years in prison plus a fine. He is not in U.S. custody and could not immediately be located. An emailed request to Sinco for comment was not returned.
Prosecutors said that to further the conspiracy, Singenberger in 2001 began creating sham corporations, "establishments" and "foundations" under the laws of Hong Kong, Liechtenstein and elsewhere to conceal accounts from the IRS.
Several of the entities -- with such names as Lucky Overseas Ventures, Real Cool Investments and Stunt Facilities International Establishment -- have been named in earlier cases filed in New York and Boston federal courts against former UBS clients.
In 2008, upon learning that U.S. authorities were investigating UBS, Singenberger helped his U.S. clients move their accounts to other Swiss banks, prosecutors said.
According to the latest indictment, Singenberger arranged for accounts to be opened in at least three Swiss banks and one Swiss-Liechtenstein bank that do not have or no longer have offices in the United States, according to the indictment.
Singenberger also provided various Swiss banks with bogus IRS forms that fraudulently stated that undeclared accounts at those banks were not U.S. clients.
U.S. authorities are also targeting other banks in tax fraud cases, including HSBC Holdings Plc.
The case is U.S. v. Singenberger, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-cr-00620.
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