Fri, Feb 25, 2011 - Page 10 News List

US indicts Zurich-based bankers on conspiracy charges

TAX DODGERS:The indictment claims the four discouraged customers from participating in the US government’s tax amnesty program in 2009

AP, MCLEAN, VIRGINIA

Four bankers with Zurich-based Credit Suisse Group were indicted on Wednesday on conspiracy charges, accused of helping US taxpayers hide as much as US$3 billion in assets from the US tax collector.

Arrest warrants have been issued for all four, who are believed to be in Switzerland — Marco Parenti Adami, Emanuel Agustoni, Michele Bergantino and Roger Schaerer.

Three are Swiss citizens, while Adami is Italian.

Prosecutors allege in the indictment that the conspiracy goes back as far as 1953. The indictment alleges that as of late 2008, Credit Suisse was maintaining thousands of secret accounts for US customers with as much as US$3 billion in assets.

The indictment itself does not specify the bank as Credit Suisse, but a law enforcement official with knowledge of the case confirmed the bank’s identity. The official insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the case.

Public documents unconnected to the case also identify some of the bankers as Credit Suisse employees.

Credit Suisse itself is not charged in the indictment, but the indictment states that bank officials “knew and should have known that they were aiding and abetting US customers in evading their US income taxes.”

The indictment claims the bankers discouraged customers from participating in a 2009 amnesty program offered by the administration of US President Barack Obama, in which US taxpayers could avoid criminal prosecution if they came forward with information on their secret accounts and agreed to pay a penalty.

In the fall of 2008, Credit Suisse began exiting the US cross-border banking business and the bankers advised clients to transfer their accounts to other Swiss banks that did not operate internationally and were therefore not subject to anything but Swiss law.

Credit Suisse spokesman David Walker said on Wednesday that the company is “cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of these individuals.”

It was not immediately clear if the Swiss government would cooperate with the prosecution and turn the four bankers over for extradition. Calls and e-mails to the Swiss embassy in Washington were not immediately returned on Wednesday afternoon.

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