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Federal judge upholds former UBS banker prison sentence

[JURIST] A federal judge on Monday refused to reconsider a 40-month prison sentence [JURIST report] given to former UBS [corporate website] banker Bradley Birkenfeld in August. Birkenfeld admitted to helping a California real-estate developer hide $200 million to avoid paying taxes and has cooperated with the government in its investigation of employees of Swiss banks that the government says take advantage of Switzerland's strict confidentiality laws to help Americans hide money and avoid paying taxes. Birkenfeld filed a motion for leniency based on his cooperation, but Judge William Zloch of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida [official website] rejected that request. Birkenfeld is scheduled to begin serving his sentence on Friday.

In November, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that more than 14,700 Americans have reported to the IRS previously hidden overseas bank accounts in response to a temporary forgiveness program [official website], allowing delinquent taxpayers to avoid criminal prosecution for tax evasion by paying all overdue taxes and penalties. In September, the US and Switzerland signed a treaty [JURIST report] that would increase the amount of information shared between the two nations on would-be tax evaders. The agreement, constructed in accordance with Article 26 of the Model Tax Convention [text, PDF], came one month after a Swiss banker and lawyer were indicted in US federal court [JURIST report] for helping clients hide assets. Earlier in August, the US reached a preliminary agreement with Switzerland over the identification of anonymous accounts [JURIST report] in Swiss banks, which would aid US officials in identifying those who seek to evade taxes.

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