Swiss banks were heavily fined for helping American customers avoid taxes

A major Swiss bank admitted to colluding with US taxpayers and others to hide $5.6 billion in assets from US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) supervision – Department of Justice The US (DOJ) said in a statement on December 4.

Banque Pictet – the private banking division of 218-year-old financial services company Pictet Group – will have to pay compensation and fines totaling $122.9 million as part of the settlement with the public agency accuse America.

According to DOJ, between 2008 and 2014, Banque Pictet had 1,637 secret accounts of US customers, and these people evaded US taxes with a total tax amount of 50.6 million USD. These accounts are where more than 5.6 billion USD is stored out of a total of nearly 20 billion USD in assets of US customers that Banque Pictet managed during the same period.

If Banque Pictet agrees to the terms set forth by the DOJ in the agreement, the DOJ will defer prosecution for a period of 3 years and will then reduce the criminal charges against this bank from criminal conspiracy to fraud. deceive. Also according to the agreement, Banque Pictet agreed to cooperate with US authorities in ongoing investigations into hidden bank accounts.

“Eradicating financial crime remains our priority,” Mr. Damian Williams – US Attorney for the Southern District of New York – said in a statement. “We encourage companies and financial institutions to step up and report wrongdoing before we get involved.”

According to allegations made by US prosecutors, Pictet Group helped customers evade US taxes by opening, maintaining and concealing secret accounts for them. Investigation results showed that this bank used “many different means” to hide those accounts.

Emails related to customer accounts are kept on-site by Pictet Group, rather than sent to customers in the US, to “ensure that documents reflecting the existence of secret accounts are not sent to the US and must be out of the reach of US tax authorities.”

In addition, Pictet Group also opens and operates offshore entities that “have no business purpose but exist solely to help US taxpayer customers hide their offshore accounts and assets from US tax authorities” – according to DOJ.

Authorities discovered that Pictet Group maintained 529 overseas entities to cover up the accounts of US customers between 2008 and 2014. In addition, this financial company also helped US customers avoid possible tax evasion. keep confidential funds abroad by transferring funds from secret accounts to accounts that appear to belong to non-U.S. customers. In essence, these accounts remained under the control of US customers through “fake funds”, the DOJ said.

Headquartered in Geneva, Pictet Group is Switzerland’s oldest and most prestigious private asset management company. This company currently manages 638 billion Swiss francs, equivalent to 713 billion USD, for wealthy individual clients and large institutions.

Pictet Group said it began handling tax evasion by customers before US authorities publicly opened an anti-tax evasion campaign in 2008 with a focus on Switzerland. That campaign was launched by the US after leaked documents showed that Switzerland’s largest bank UBS helped thousands of customers avoid taxes.

UBS pleaded guilty and paid $780 million to US authorities under a deferred prosecution agreement in 2019. In the following years, other Swiss banks followed suit.

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