Tax

Three More Swiss Banks Shake On Deals Over Secret US Accounts

Amisha Mehta, Assistant Editor, December 16, 2015

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Three more non-prosecution agreements have been signed, including by Dreyfus, one of the oldest family-owned banks in Switzerland.

Dreyfus catered to Jewish clients looking to protect their assets from the Nazis, helping them to hide ownership of the assets from all government authorities. The bank continued this practice well into the 2000s and will pay a penalty of $24.161 million to avoid prosecution over undeclared US-related accounts.

Following World War II, the private bank, which was founded in Basel in 1813, set up Panama corporations to hold funds for clients so that they could “protect their assets for reasons of personal safety”, the US Department of Justice said. Among the Panama entity accounts were 33 US-related accounts. They had a combined value of around $90 million.

Over 20 years ago, Dreyfus management agreed to serve as a custodian for physical gold and cash for clients of unnamed British Virgin Islands entity whose business operations are based in Switzerland. This involved 315 US-related accounts worth a total of $440 million in gold and/or cash.

Since August 2008 the bank held 855 US-related accounts with a value of $1.76 billion in assets under management.

The DoJ revealed that Crédit Agricole's Swiss business, which mainly focuses on private banking and wealth management services, has also signed a non-prosecution agreement and will pay a penalty of $99.211 million. Since August 2008, the Geneva-headquartered bank held 954 declared and undeclared US-related accounts worth over $1.8 billion. 

Lastly, Basel-headquartered Baumann & Cie, which maintained 167 US-related accounts - with a peak value of $514.1 million - will pay a $7.7 million penalty.

“Although the end of the year is upon us, we will not slow down in our efforts to bring banks and US citizens hiding money offshore into compliance,” said chief Richard Weber of IRS-Criminal Investigation. “The agreements signed today are further evidence that the Swiss Bank Program has effectively decimated the hidden offshore banking industry.

“IRS-CI will continue to use all of the information we gather from these agreements to vigorously pursue individual US taxpayers who illegally conceal assets offshore and to develop innovative strategies to combat international tax evasion worldwide.”

So far, there have been 64 deals reached under the Swiss Bank Program, by which each bank agrees to cooperate in any criminal or civil proceedings, demonstrate its implementation of controls to stop misconduct involving undeclared US accounts and pay a penalty in exchange for the department’s agreement not to prosecute them.

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