US judge declares Swiss banker, lawyer fugitives

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2009 10:53 AM

A federal judge in Florida declared a banker and lawyer from Switzerland who were indicted on fraud charges to be fugitives from justice.

The order signed Thursday by U.S. District Judge Daniel T.K. Hurley effectively suspends the case against banker Hansruedi Schumacher and attorney Matthias Rickenbach. Both men are accused of helping rich Americans evade taxes by hiding assets in Swiss banks, including UBS AG and a smaller Zurich-based institution, Neue Zuercher Bank (NZB).

Schumacher and Rickenbach have been charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. They were indicted in August and face a potential five-year prison sentence. Prosecutors have said both men remain in Switzerland.

Schumacher led NZB's private banking business and previously worked at UBS, where he handled much of their cross-border banking with U.S. businesses from the mid-1990s to 2002, court documents said. Rickenbach advised clients on how to set up sham offshore corporations and trusts to help conceal assets, according to the indictment.

The men are also alleged to have told a New York businessman that they paid a Swiss government official a $45,000 bribe for information on whether the businessman's account would be revealed to U.S. investigators.

Two of the men's clients pleaded guilty to criminal charges stemming from a U.S. tax evasion investigation earlier this year. Several people with UBS accounts have pleaded guilty to tax charges, and the Justice Department has said that many more are under criminal investigation.