Swiss adviser charged in U.S. tax fraud tied to UBS

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 21, 2011 1:35 PM
Swiss adviser charged in U.S. tax fraud tied to UBS

By Jonathan Stempel and Basil Katz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors have charged a Swiss financial adviser with helping more than 60 U.S. taxpayers hide more than $184 million in Swiss bank accounts, and move assets from UBS AG to other Swiss banks to avoid getting caught.

Beda Singenberger, owner of Zurich-based Sinco Treuhand AG, was accused of conspiring from 1998 to 2009 to help the taxpayers hide income from the Internal Revenue Service, the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said.

Prosecutors said Singenberger in 2001 began creating sham corporations, "establishments" and "foundations" under the laws of jurisdictions including Hong Kong and Liechtenstein, to conceal accounts from the IRS.

They said Singenberger provided various Swiss banks with bogus IRS forms indicating that undeclared accounts were not owned by people in the United States.

Then in 2008, upon learning that UBS was being investigated by U.S. authorities, Singenberger helped his U.S. clients move their accounts to other Swiss banks, prosecutors added.

Singenberger, 57, was indicted on a conspiracy charge, and if convicted could face five years in prison plus a fine.

An emailed request to Sinco for comment was not immediately returned. It is not immediately clear whether Singenberger has retained a lawyer for his defense.

UBS avoided U.S. criminal prosecution in February 2009 by agreeing to pay a $780 million penalty and admitting it helped Americans hide income from the IRS. Criminal charges against the bank were formally dropped last October.

U.S. authorities are also targeting other banks in tax fraud cases, including HSBC Holdings Plc

The case is U.S. v. Singenberger, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-cr-00620.

(Reporting by Basil Katz and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Richard Chang)