[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed papers [press release] in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida Monday asking the court to force a Swiss bank to hand over the names of American clients suspected of hiding funds from tax collectors. The DOJ is requesting permission for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) [official website] to issue "John Doe" summons against UBS [corporate website] to obtain information about unidentified American bank patrons accused of tax fraud. A former UBS banker pleaded guilty [San Francisco Examiner news archive] to conspiracy to defraud the IRS last month, after he admitted that UBS employees assisted US citizens in hiding approximately $20 billion in taxable assets. IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said [statement]:
Today's action sends a strong, unequivocal signal to anyone thinking of short-changing the nation and their fellow citizens by evading the tax laws.The New York Times has more. The Wall Street Journal has additional coverage.
Offshore accounts harbor billions of dollars, and people should take notice that the secrecy surrounding these deals is rapidly fading. The information we would gather from this action would help us detect wealthy individuals who don't pay their taxes as well as provide details about how advisors facilitate this abuse.
Owners of Swiss bank accounts have traditionally enjoyed great privacy, but Swiss banks have recently released information on certain clients. In 2006, the Swiss Justice Ministry [official website] granted US investigators access to information [JURIST report] about bank accounts of terrorism suspects. Prosecutors in the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia [official website] requested the information in a four-year old investigation into money laundering to support terrorist activities. The same year, the Swiss Supreme Court denied a Russian request [JURIST report] for the transfer of bank documents to Russia [JURIST news archive] which were relevant to an ongoing investigation into Russian oil giant Yukos [corporate website; JURIST news archive].