[JURIST] A Swiss banking executive and a Swiss lawyer were indicted [text, PDF] Thursday on charges of conspiring to defraud the US, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official websites] announced [press release]. According to the indictment, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website], Hansruedi Schumacher, executive manager at Neue Zuercher Bank (NZB) [corporate website], and lawyer Matthias Rickenbach helped US clients to illegally conceal assets by setting up sham investment accounts. Schumacher and Rickenbach allegedly falsified documents and discouraged their clients from complying with US tax laws. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said:
This is another step in our ongoing effort to pursue hidden offshore assets - no matter where they are located. We're in the early stages of our work to crack down on offshore tax evasion. Through our efforts, we are gaining access to more and more information on institutions and individuals involved in offshore tax evasion, and you can expect us to use all of our enforcement tools to stop this abuse. For people with hidden offshore assets, they have an opportunity to get right with the government. Time is quickly running out, and people should take advantage of our voluntary disclosure process before special provisions expire September 23.
A spokesperson for NZB said Friday that Schumacher had been fired [NYT report] from the bank but declined to make further comments.
Earlier this week, the US government reached an agreement [JURIST report] with Switzerland that would grant the IRS access to information on thousands of Swiss bank accounts. As part of the agreement [text, PDF], the Swiss government will instruct banking giant UBS [corporate website] to begin to turn over information regarding certain anonymous bank accounts. In return, the US will cease unilateral efforts to seek account holder information, including withdrawing motions to enforce "John Doe" summons. In early May, the Obama administration announced revisions to the tax code [JURIST report] designed to curb overseas tax havens. One week earlier, the Swiss government filed an amicus curiae brief in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that the attempt to obtain account holder information by the US violated Swiss national sovereignty [JURIST report]. Earlier this year, the Swiss announced their intention to adopt a more stringent definition [JURIST report] of tax evasion and to work with other countries to investigate such claims.