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Back when the UBS "diamond in the toothpaste tube" story broke originally UBS claimed that they were going to "cooperate" with the US.
Not so fast, it appears:
The bank turned over information on more than 250 customers -- an unprecedented breach of Switzerland’s bulwark of secrecy. The U.S. Internal Revenue Service is suing UBS in federal court in Miami to get the names of 52,000 American account holders who may have broken U.S. tax laws.
UBS is fighting back. The bank said in April 30 court filings that the U.S. efforts would force bank employees to violate Swiss criminal laws barring disclosure of secret account information. The Swiss government says the U.S. is trampling on its sovereignty.
Yeah, right. Oh, those wonderful Swiss were just helping people do what they felt was right, yes? There wasn't a money motive involved here, was there? Oh wait - there was!
U.S. prosecutors say UBS earned $200 million a year managing $20 billion in assets for American customers. Birkenfeld, a neurosurgeon’s son who worked in Switzerland for three international banks, cooperated with prosecutors and U.S. Senate investigators in laying out a road map of how UBS courted clients like Olenicoff.
Ah - $200 million a year worth of money. I see.
So much for the so-called "purity of motive."
Never mind that funny thing called "mens rea", that is, "of criminal mind":
The bank had extensive schemes to avoid getting caught by U.S. regulators, Birkenfeld told Senate investigators. UBS bankers carried encrypted laptop computers, and the Swiss bank trained its staff to dodge detection by U.S. authorities.
The bankers falsely said on customs forms that they were traveling for pleasure, not business, and told clients to destroy offshore records that could be tied to UBS, Birkenfeld said in his guilty plea.
“Very few people would have imagined the level of complicity of the UBS bankers and executives,” says Josh Ungerman, a tax lawyer at Meadows, Collier, Reed, Cousins & Blau LLP in Dallas. “It’s almost unbelievable that a major worldwide bank that was as well respected would have employees engage in that type of behavior.”
How is it that we have a bank, a supposedly-regulated entity, that still has its banking license and permission to operate in the United States - a privilege granted by our government - after something like this?
But it gets better. Back in 2000, UBS agreed to follow US law:
UBS began to make promises to the IRS after buying Paine Webber Group Inc. for $11.9 billion in 2000. The New York-based securities firm had 8,000 brokers and held about $500 billion in assets.
That year, UBS signed a so-called qualified intermediary agreement with the IRS to give tax information to the U.S. agency about American clients holding securities in Swiss accounts. UBS was supposed to withhold taxes at a 28 percent rate if clients didn’t declare their accounts to the IRS.
But they didn't, of course, and now are claiming that "Swiss Law" permits them to violate an agreement they voluntarily entered into.
I guess "Swiss Law" didn't prevent them from agreeing to provide this information (as a means of expanding their franchise and gaining US recognition for it here in the United States!), right?
So Swiss Law only applies when its convenient?
It certainly appears that any claim that such violations were "coincidences" or "committed by clients without our knowledge" are specious:
UBS helped clients circumvent U.S. securities restrictions by referring them to outside advisers who set up sham companies in tax havens like the British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong and Panama, according to the bank’s Feb. 18 admission.
UBS kept records showing the true owners of accounts as well as phony records saying they were owned by the sham firms.
Ah. Two sets of books. I like it. Gee, where have we seen this before?
Time to shut these guys down folks. They've had plenty of time to comply with the law and their former agreement, which made clear they would provide to the American authorities the names of clients who are cheating.
This isn't about "Swiss Law", it is about contracts and representations made as a condition of obtaining and maintaining a banking license.
Let's hand up the indictments. I pay my taxes - it is time for UBS and the "super-rich" who, it is alleged, they knowingly helped to evade the law to do so as well.