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Tue, Jan 05, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Former employee of UBS may leave jail a rich man

LAST LAUGH? Bradley Birkenfeld, imprisoned for inciting clients to commit tax fraud, may be entitled to up to 30 percent of any taxes recovered by the IRS

AFP , WASHINGTON

A former employee of Swiss banking giant UBS may leave prison a rich man after he blew the whistle on a huge US tax fraud, CBS television said on Sunday.

Bradley Birkenfeld turned in thousands of people for trying to evade paying taxes in the US, but he was sentenced in August to three years and four months in jail for inciting UBS clients to commit tax fraud.

Birkenfeld told CBS on Sunday he felt he had been badly treated after he denounced 19,000 UBS clients who were said to have invested some 20 billion Swiss francs (US$13.5 billion) in secret Swiss accounts.

“I’m the only one going to prison. Out of 19,000 accounts and no Swiss bankers,” he said. “I gave them the biggest tax fraud case in the world. I exposed 19,000 international criminals and I’m going to jail for that?”

One of his lawyers, Stephen Kohn, however, told the US television channel that Birkenfeld could have the last laugh, as under federal laws he may be entitled to up to 30 percent of any taxes recovered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

Prosecutors said the Internal Revenue Service could recoup several billion dollars in lost taxes.

Birkenfeld, from Massachusetts, was sentenced just two days after UBS and the US and Swiss governments reached a landmark out-of-court settlement of the US civil tax fraud complaint.

Despite strict Swiss secrecy laws, UBS agreed to hand over some 4,500 names suspected of tax evasion to US authorities.

Birkenfeld was, however, sentenced for aiding the Californian property developer Igor Olinicoff to hide some US$200 million of shares in Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

His lawyer, Kohn, said the US authorities should, however, be thanking him.

“Mr Birkenfeld has saved the taxpayers billions of dollars, brought thousands of people to justice. They should blow up his check,” Kohn said.

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