US prepared to take UBS case to trial

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The US, Switzerland and UBS have not yet reached a settlement in a tax evasion case.

Miami -- The US government said Wednesday it was ready for trial Monday after no settlement was reached in a diplomatically sensitive case seeking to force Swiss banking giant UBS to reveal names of offshore account holders.

A US Justice Department lawyer told a conference call with the parties involved that talks thus far had failed to produce a settlement in the case aimed at forcing UBS to help Washington control tax evasion.

"The governments plan to continue talking but the United States’ position is that the court should proceed to hold the hearing next week," Justice Department trial attorney Stuart Gibson said in a conference call with the parties and a federal judge.

"It is uncertain whether an agreement will be reached," Gibson added.

US District Judge Alan Gold said he would hold another conference call Friday with all parties but the trial would open as scheduled Monday unless there is an agreement on a new postponement or a settlement.

"I'm prepared to start this case Monday ... unless everybody has an agreement that it should be postponed or there is a settlement," Gold said.

Lawyers representing UBS had requested a delay until 7 August to give the parties involved -- the bank and the US and Swiss governments -- more time to negotiate a settlement.

Gene Stern, the attorney for UBS, said talks were ongoing.

"At the end of the day we have agreed to cooperate and we don't see getting involved in a prolonged process if we are just minutes away from a negotiation," Stern said.

The judge postponed the trial on 13 June at the request of the bank and the two governments to allow negotiations.

The US government is suing Switzerland's biggest bank to force it to reveal the identities of thousands of US clients with offshore accounts.

UBS has argued that it cannot comply with the US demand without violating Swiss banking secrecy law, which would make it liable for prosecution in Switzerland.

The case stems from a lawsuit filed earlier in 2009 and affects as many as 52,000 US taxpayers suspected of holding UBS offshore accounts to avoid paying US taxes.

AFP / Expatica

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