Expatica news

US fails to extradite ex-Wegelin banker

A former Wegelin banker has returned to Switzerland after the United States lost in its bid to have him extradited from Germany, where he was being detained, according to his lawyer.

Roger Keller is one of three Wegelin employees indicted by the Department of Justice in 2012 for alleged tax evasion offences. The Swiss private bank was eventually forced to close down under the weight of the criminal prosecution.

Keller was arrested in Germany in February 2015 under a US extradition request and spent seven months in jail before being granted bail.

His US lawyer, Thomas Green at law firm Sidley Austin, confirmed to swissinfo.ch a Reuters report stating that a German court ordered his release on Friday after Germany turned down the extradition request. Green told Reuters that Keller has already been in Switzerland for “a few days”.

Several other Swiss bankers have faced tax evasion charges in the US, most of whom cut deals with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) to pass on information in exchange for leniency. An exception is former UBS head of wealth management Raoul Weil who chose to stand in court, where he was acquitted of all charges in November 2014.

In 2009, UBS became the first Swiss bank to be punished by the US for helping clients evade taxes. It was hit with a big fine, as were later Credit Suisse, Julius Bär and other banks. The collapse of Wegelin prompted Swiss legislators to bring down the curtain of banking secrecy and negotiate a non-prosecution agreement with the US for a number of financial institutions caught up in the tax evasion spat.

The DoJ closed this programme in January, having netted $1.36 billion (CHF1.38 billion) from 80 Swiss or Swiss-based banks.

A handful of other banks, including Pictet and the Basel and Zurich cantonal banks, could still be subject to criminal convictions and heavy fines.

Switzerland’s oldest private bank Wegelin (established 1741) handed over client portfolios to Notenstein when it collapsed in 2013.

swissinfo.ch with agencies