White-Collar Crime

Attorney Helped Me Mail Home $211K in Secret Swiss Account Cash, Va. Surgeon Says in Plea

In a plea bargain today that may signal a more sweeping prosecutorial approach to tax issues related to secret Swiss bank accounts, a Virginia surgeon admits that he conspired with a banker and an attorney to conceal from United States authorities the $250,000 he inherited from his mother, plus $18,000 interest.

Moreover, Andrew Silva, 49, also admits that the unidentified Zurich attorney allegedly helped him arrange to mail $211,200, in cash, to his home, in 26 payments, reports Bloomberg. The lawyer allegedly helped manage the Swiss bank account, which was held in a sham Liechtenstein trust.

Silva’s mother’s account was undisclosed to U.S. authorities, too, apparently creating a problem for all concerned about what to do with the cash when the bank, London-based HSBC, decided to close all secret Swiss accounts held by U.S. residents, according to court papers. Based on advice from the Zurich lawyer that it was legal to do so, Silva says, he mailed the money in amounts of less than $10,000.

In fact, it is considered illegal “structuring” to send a stream of smaller payments to avoid reporting requirements that apply to larger amounts of cash, the Bloomberg article states. In addition to conspiracy, Silva admitted false statements and filing inaccurate tax returns from 1997 to 1998, in his plea today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, reports Reuters.

The case is significant because it suggests the focus may be shifting to other financial institutions in the ongoing U.S. probe of secret accounts held by Americans at Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS AG.

The banker who also allegedly helped Silva conceal cash is an unindicted co-conspirator in the case, reports Reuters. When asked whether the Department of Justice will now target Silva’s bank, attorney Kevin Downing of the U.S. Department of Justice declined to answer directly.

However, “we’re definitely not going to tolerate that type of behavior,” Downing told the news agency. “We follow the evidence.”

Officials for the bank declined Bloomberg’s request for comment. And attorney Christopher Rizek, who represents Silva, declined comment when contacted by the New York Times, the newspaper reports.

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