01 Jan 2009, David Benyon, Operational Risk & Regulation
BASEL & ZURICH - UBS has revealed it has uncovered what it describes as "a limited number of cases" of tax fraud as part of inquiries by US regulatory authorities into the bank's global wealth management arm's role in aiding tax fraud. The Swiss bank's chairman has indicated he could hand details of cases over to the US Internal Revenue Service, in an uncharacteristic move for the famously confidential Swiss banking system, saying investor privacy "is not there to protect cases of tax fraud".
Prosecutors allege the unit helped US clients evade income taxes on funds held in foreign accounts (see OpRisk & Compliance, Losses and Lawsuits, December 2008). Bradley Birkenfeld, a former UBS banker, has already pleaded guilty to helping US clients avoid paying taxes. According to a US grand jury indictment, he smuggled diamonds into the US inside a toothpaste tube for one client. The former head of the bank's international wealth management unit, Raoul Weil, has pleaded innocent and vows to fight charges of aiding tax evasion for $200 million in offshore assets.