Tax Law

Ex-UBS Banker Gets 40 Months in Swiss Bank Account Case

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A former employee of a major Swiss bank was sentenced to a 40-month prison term by a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., today.

Prosecutors had recommended a 30-month term for Bradley Birkenfeld, 44, citing his cooperation in helping the government pursue some $20 billion in American taxpayer assets that allegedly may be held in secret accounts at UBS AG and other offshore institutions, reports Bloomberg.

U.S. District Judge William Zloch didn’t explain why he increased the sentence to 40 months, the news agency notes.

Even 40 months, however, “doesn’t seem that bad to me,” attorney George Clarke tells Dow Jones Newswires. Birkenfeld did, after all, help Americans evade a lot of tax payments, the Miller & Chevalier partner points out.

But other observers said the prison sentence seems punitive given Birkenfeld’s major whistleblower role. In the future, some defendants may think twice about cooperating as they look at the extraordinarily harsh sentence he got, says Scott Michel of Caplin & Drysdale.

Updated at 3:30 p.m. to include additional information from Dow Jones Newswires.

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