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Swiss banker seeks whistleblower billions; Swiss electorate to vote on tax pacts

For a country that usually likes to stay under the radar, Switzerland continues to get a lot of attention when it comes to its banking laws and international taxes.

Yes, things are still shaking out, with the names of the "most-wanted" account holders at the giant Swiss bank UBS to be handed over to U.S. tax investigators.

Just last week, the Federal Tax Administration in Bern finished reviewing the first 500 files of UBS clients that the IRS suspects of tax fraud. But the Swiss will not turn over the list, per two countries agreement, until the account holders have exhausted the appeals process.

Whisteblower reward on the way? Meanwhile, one of the bankers who helped unravel the secret Swiss accounts now wants to be paid for his part in outing his former U.S. clients.


Bradley C. Birkenfeld, a former private banker with UBS, has been sentenced to 40 months in prison for helping his evasive clients.

But once he gets out, he's hoping he'll be able to rebuild his life with billions of dollars he says he should get as a reward for whistleblowing.

If Birkenfeld and his lawyers (yes, there are always lawyers involved) succeed, it would be the largest reward of its kind. 

And it looks like Birkenfeld's loose tax lips have given him a pretty good shot at a pretty darn good payday.

In court filings, the Justice Department has acknowledged that the information from Birkenfeld, a 44-year-old American who worked at the Swiss bank, was the crucial factor leading to the criminal investigation of UBS.

"Without Mr. Birkenfeld walking into the door of the Department of Justice in summer of 2007, I doubt this massive fraud scheme would have been discovered by the United States government," wrote Justice Department prosecutor Kevin M. Downing in filings in Birkenfeld's case.

Swiss votes on tax treaties: While all this is going on in the U.S., back in Europe the Swiss seem to be taking a page from the U.S. when it comes to tax law changes.

The government's tax agreements with other countries, an effort to make the Alpine tax haven's laws more transparent and get it off an international list of bad tax actors, might be going before the country's electorate.

The Swiss government has asked its parliament to approve five new tax treaties as part of its effort to counter the country's stigma of being an international tax haven and said the deals should be subject to an optional referendum.

Essentially, the new double-taxation agreements will mean Switzerland will cooperate more fully with foreign tax authorities seeking information from hidden offshore accounts. Also, the country will no longer distinguish between tax evasion and tax fraud.

Votes on the treaties certainly would make Swiss who oppose changes to the country's banking secrecy laws happy, but it also could slow efforts to remove the pejorative "tax haven" label.

The Swiss exercise of democracy when it comes to the tax treaties will no doubt slow things down, Gyorg Lütz, project director of Swiss electoral studies at Lausanne's Centre for Electoral Studies, told World Swiss Radio, but he noted that it's unclear whether the government really had a choice politically.

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Bruce Stratton

He (Birkenfeld) should be very vigilant about looking over his shoulder for the rest of his life. Not saying that he may get "GOT" by some resentful person; just sayin'.

s. vitrano

Swiss banker seeks whistleblower billions

An excellent heading which warns decent people of the crooks and sellouts that are out there and who mislead their trusting clients with incorrect and illegal advice. People who prey on their trusting clients like vultures and then, when things start getting hot sell them out.
A typical example is BRADLEY BIRKENFELD!!

I must interject that the wealthy in this world did not get there by being a “Mr Nice Guy” The wheeled and dealed and worked hard. They cut corners where they could and AVOIDED tax like the plague. But to become a tycoon you must not be stupid. Most wealthy people hire accountants, managers, and consultants. They work closely with their bankers in order to get away with paying minimal taxes.. But they will all tell you that Tax EVASION is a big NO NO!! It costs too much!!

Birkenfeld was a wealth management consultant who advised wealthy people how to invest their funds safely and with minimal tax burden. Instead of advising the clients correctly, he convinced them to take some actions which later turned out to be illegal and this cost them hefty fines, threat of prison, and a lot of credibility and prestige loss..

As soon as he got found out by the IRS in the course of another investigation of one of his clients he started singing like a canary to the IRS and gave up his clients, and his employer UBS. He bit every hand that had ever fed him!!
Now he wants to collect a bounty??
Any funds paid to him must go to compensating his clients and his former employer while he enjoys life as a social outcast!!

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