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Swiss banker cops plea, helped Americans conceal income abroad

  • McClatchy Washington Bureau
  • Published Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at 5:47 p.m.

— A Swiss national has pleaded guilty to helping Americans conceal income in Switzerland and in offshore sham companies in order to skirt federal taxes, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

The agency announced that Andreas Markus Bachmann had entered into a plea agreement in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, agreeing to a potentially lighter sentence in exchange for a promise of cooperation.

In a statement of facts accompanying the plea deal, Bachmann acknowledged that from 1994 to 2013 he worked with others to help hide income taxable in the United States. Bachmann was a “relationship manager” for several Swiss banks over this period, traveling to the United States to secretly meet with customers who were skirting U.S. tax law.

Bachmann did this by receiving or sending multiple payments of under $10,000 to skirt reporting requirements, and in conjunction with Josef Dorig. He’s another Swiss national that U.S. prosecutors allege worked with the clients, through Dorig Partner AG, to create sham companies in offshore tax havens. The evasion occurred through fictitious foreign partnerships, trusts and foundations.

The United States has aggressively gone after Swiss banks UBS, in 2008, and Wegelin, the oldest Swiss bank, effectively forced to sell itself last year after entering an agreement with U.S. authorities.

Late last month, however, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a scathing 175-page report, questioning why the Justice Department was taking it easy on giant global Swiss bank Credit Suisse. The report noted how few names of American tax cheaters had been handed over by Credit Suisse, despite promises of cooperation.

Wednesday’s statement of facts said that Bachmann had been advising since 2009 that his American account holders declare their assets to the Internal Revenue Service through its Voluntary Disclosure Program. But for those who did not do so, he continued to work with them.

As a relationship manager, Bachmann would travel to the United States and move large amounts of cash from one client to another, crediting the offshore accounts accordingly.

In one strange occurrence, he was stopped at a New York airport in October 2001 with $50,000 cash, being transferred to a South Florida account holder. He was inexplicably allowed to travel with those large sums in his hand luggage, but the client in South Florida balked at receiving it after being told of the stop. Bachmann then traveled back to Switzerland with $50,000 cash in his checked luggage.

Email: khall@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @KevinGHall.

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