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Tax Law

Swiss Attorney Charged in UBS Case; US Lawyers Could Be Targeted, Too

Posted Aug 20, 2009 3:44 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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An attorney and a banker from Switzerland were indicted today in a federal case in Florida for allegedly helping wealthy Americans evade taxes by putting assets in secret Swiss bank accounts.

And, as a criminal probe continues, United States lawyers and bankers could face charges for misadvising clients, too, reports Bloomberg.

The indicted attorney, 42-year-old Matthias Rickenbach, allegedly advised clients of UBS AG on how to set-up sham offshore corporations and trusts to hide assets, the Associated Press reports. The Zurich practitioner has a tax law degree from the University of San Diego.

Rickenbach faces a single count of conspiring to defraud the government. If convicted, he could be sentenced to as much as five years in prison.

Both defendants remain in Switzerland and it isn't clear that they are represented by lawyers, the AP reports.

"This is another step in our ongoing effort to pursue hidden offshore assets, no matter where they are located," says Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Doug Shulman in a written statement. "We're in the early stages of our work to crack down on offshore tax evasion."

Earlier this week, the U.S. government and UBS agreed that the bank will disclose names and account information for nearly 4,500 clients who are suspected of tax evasion, in settlement of IRS litigation against the Swiss bank.

It appears that clients of other Swiss banks may also be targeted, sooner or later. Meanwhile, UBS clients who have hidden assets have until Sept. 23 to decide whether to take part in a voluntary disclosure program that cuts the penalties they potentially face for tax evasion.


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