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Criminal Charges Filed Against Bank Julius Baer Settle With a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, Fine $547 Million &Guilty Pleas From 2 Julius Baer Bankers!

On Thursday, February 4, 2016 DoJ  announced the filing of criminal charges against Bank Julius Baer & Co. Ltd. (Julius Baer or the company), a financial institution headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.   Julius Baer is charged with conspiring with many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients and others to help U.S. taxpayers hide billions of dollars in offshore accounts from the IRS and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts. 
 
Acting Assistant Attorney General Ciraolo and U.S. Attorney Bharara also announced a deferred prosecution agreement with Julius Baer (the agreement) under which the company admits that it knowingly assisted many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients in evading their tax obligations under U.S. law.  The admissions are contained in a detailed Statement of Facts attached to the agreement.  The agreement requires Julius Baer to pay a total of $547 million by no later than Feb. 9, 2016, including through a parallel civil forfeiture action also filed on February 4, 2016 in the Southern District of New York.            

The criminal charge is contained in an Information (the information) alleging one count of conspiracy to (1) defraud the IRS, (2) to file false federal income tax returns and (3) to evade federal income taxes.  If Julius Baer abides by all of the terms of the agreement, the government will defer prosecution on the Information for three years and then seek to dismiss the charges.

In addition, two Julius Baer client advisers, Daniela Casadei and Fabio Frazzetto, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court today February 4, 2016 .   Casadei and Frazzetto were originally charged in 2011 and remained at large until Feb. 1, when they each made initial appearances before the Honorable Gabriel W. Gorenstein, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Southern District of New York.

Casadei and Frazzetto each pleaded guilty to an Information (collectively, with the Julius Baer information, the informations) before U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain charging them with conspiring with U.S. taxpayer-clients and others to help U.S. taxpayers hide their assets in offshore accounts and to evade U.S. taxes on the income earned in those accounts.

“Today’s resolution with Bank Julius Baer and
the guilty pleas entered by Two Bank Employees reflect the department’s continued commitment to Hold Accountable those Financial Institutions who Conspired with U.S. taxpayers to Conceal Assets Abroad and Evade U.S. Tax Obligations,
as well as those individuals responsible
for such crimes,”
said Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline D. Ciraolo of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “

The Offense Conduct
From at least the 1990s through 2009, Julius Baer helped many of its U.S. taxpayer-clients evade their U.S. tax obligations, file false federal tax returns with the IRS and otherwise hide accounts held at Julius Baer from the IRS (hereinafter, undeclared accounts).  Julius Baer did so by opening and maintaining undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers and by allowing third-party asset managers to open undeclared accounts for U.S. taxpayers at Julius Baer.  Casadei and Frazzetto, bankers who worked as client advisers at Julius Baer, directly assisted various U.S. taxpayer-clients in maintaining undeclared accounts at Julius Baer in order to evade their obligations under U.S.  law.  At various times, Casadei, Frazzetto and others advised those U.S. taxpayer-clients that their accounts at Julius Baer would not be disclosed to the IRS because Julius Baer had a long tradition of bank secrecy and no longer had offices in the United States, making Julius Baer less vulnerable to pressure from U.S. law enforcement authorities than other Swiss banks with a presence in the United States. 
In furtherance of the scheme to help U.S. taxpayers hide assets from the IRS and evade taxes, Julius Baer undertook, among other actions, the following:

  • Entering into “code word agreements” with U.S. taxpayer-clients under which Julius Baer agreed not to identify the U.S. taxpayers by name within the bank or on bank documents, but rather to identify the U.S. taxpayers by code name or number, in order to reduce the risk that U.S. tax authorities would learn the identities of the U.S. taxpayers.
  • Opening and maintaining accounts for many U.S. taxpayer-clients held in the name of non-U.S. corporations, foundations, trusts, or other legal entities (collectively, structures) or non-U.S. relatives, thereby helping such U.S. taxpayers conceal their beneficial ownership of the accounts.

Julius Baer was aware that many U.S. taxpayer-clients were maintaining undeclared accounts at Julius Baer in order to evade their U.S. tax obligations, in violation of U.S. law.  In internal Julius Baer correspondence, undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayers were at times referred to as “black money,” “non W-9,” “tax neutral,” “unofficial,” or “sensitive” accounts.
Julius Baer also advised its bankers to take certain steps to avoid scrutiny from U.S. authorities when travelling to the United States, as well as steps to avoid U.S. law enforcement identifying Julius Baer clients.  In a memo entitled “U.S. Clients Do’s & Don’ts,” circulated internally in 2006, a Julius Baer employee provided client advisers with advice regarding travel to the United States, including:

  • “At Immigration . . . When asked by Officer what will you do while in the USA, say Business and of course some leisure, trying to take some time to enjoy your beautiful country. Proud government employees usually love this type of statement.One can throw in skydiving or another fun sport/activity.This tends to shift the questioning away from the business purpose to the ‘fun time’ part of the trip (carrying a tennis racket also puts the emphasis on “fun and games,” and not on business).”
  • In regard to communicating while in the U.S.:“Only use mobile phone[s] registered in and operating from Switzerland.Avoid phone calls from hotel to clients.It is recommended to purchase a telephone calling card from the post office, grocery stores, or electronic shops.This allows you to use practically any phone with no specific link left behind.The best is to pay for the calling card in cash.For ex: a 400 minutes local calling card costs less than $50, but the rates can vary.Most cards can also be used to call anywhere abroad.”

At its high-water mark in 2007, Julius Baer had approximately $4.7 billion in assets under management relating to approximately 2,589 undeclared accounts held by U.S. taxpayer-clients.  From 2001 through 2011, Julius Baer earned approximately $87 million in profit on approximately $219 million gross revenues from its undeclared U.S. taxpayer accounts, including accounts held through structures.

Casadei, 52, a Swiss citizen, and Frazzetto, 42, an Italian and Swiss citizen, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS, to evade federal income taxes and to file false federal income tax returns.  Casadei and Frazzetto each face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in prison.  The statutory maximum sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentences imposed on the defendants will be determined by the judge.

Casadei and Frazzetto are each scheduled to be sentenced before Judge Swain on August 12, 2016.

 Do You Have Undeclared Income from
 a Swiss Bank?
 
 
Is Your Name Being Handed Over to the IRS?
 
 Want to Know if the OVDP Program is Right for You?
Contact the Tax Lawyers at 
Marini& Associates, P.A.  
 
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Read more at: Tax Times blog

 
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