US sentences man in Swiss banking crackdown

17th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

A court on Friday sentenced a financial adviser to 12 months in prison for concealing 8.8 million dollars from tax authorities in Swiss bank accounts.

The United States has been cracking down on thousands of American clients of Swiss bank UBS, in an attempt to evade the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Under US law, taxpayers are required to report worldwide income.

Federico Hernandez, a Manhattan-based financial adviser who pleaded guilty to filing five false tax returns and hiding 8.8 million dollars from the IRS by using shell companies to conceal his ownership of secret accounts, the Department of Justice said.

His 12 month prison sentence, which came with a 4.4 million dollar fine, is the longest to date for hiding a UBS bank account from the IRS, it said.

Hernandez was one of seven US taxpayers charged in April with filing false tax returns and related crimes for hiding Swiss bank accounts from the IRS.

US tax authorities started their offensive against UBS in 2008 after questioning a former banker, prosecuting the bank through US courts and forcing it to hand over 300 client names and pay a 780-million-dollar fine.

The IRS subsequently threatened the Swiss bank, which by then was struggling to survive the global financial crisis, with litigation over another 52,000 suspected tax evaders.

The lawsuit was averted after the Swiss government intervened to negotiate a settlement with Washington, fearing permanent damage to Switzerland's then biggest bank that could have undermined its whole banking system.

Last month, Swiss authorities said they had handed over to US authorities data on about half of the 4,450 American UBS clients suspected of tax evasion.

© 2010 AFP

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