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News : US Economy Last Updated: Dec 4, 2013 - 7:51 AM

Swiss regulator urges banks to join US program; Tax fugitive to return to US
By Finfacts Team
Dec 3, 2013 - 7:46 AM

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The Swiss banking regulator has urged banks to participate with the US anti-tax evasion program that aims to reveal undeclared assets of American clients. It's reported that many banks my not sign up as they would immediately be liable to fines. Meanwhile, Raoul Weil, a former UBS banker who is a fugitive from US justice, has agreed to face trial in the US, after his arrest in Italy last October.

In the Friday edition of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper, Patrick Raaflaub, director of the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA), said if a bank had any doubt it had violated US law, it should participate in the program and tell FINMA before December 9. Banks have until the end of 2013 to inform the US authorities.

Raaflaub conceded that cooperation would result in fines of up to 50% of the value of assets involved and the deal offered no guarantee that they would face no future lawsuits.

Any bank failing to cooperate “must expect to be involved in a conflict dragged out over years,” he warned, “and the fear of further sanctions from the US authorities.”

The Swiss government, with the support of the financial sector, signed an agreement with the US last September, which aims to end a long-standing dispute over tax evasion by US citizens.

On Friday, the government said it had approved the first batch of banks to cooperate with US authorities under a deal to stem tax evasion. However, the finance ministry said in a statement that it wouldn’t give information on the number of banks involved or name them.

Meanwhile, Raoul Weil, a former UBS banker, has agreed to go to the United States to face trial for aiding and abetting tax evasion after being arrested in Italy in mid-October.

Weil was arrested while on holiday in Bologna where he had used his own name in booking a hotel with his wife. He has been in an Italian jail since. Switzerland does not extradite tax evaders.

The 54-year-old Swiss citizen left Switzerland’s largest bank in 2009 after being declared a fugitive by the US courts for failing to respond to a criminal indictment issued in 2008.

According to The Wall Street Journal, 85% of UBS's American clients, about 17,000, hid their identities and bank accounts from the US Internal Revenue Service while Weil was the chief executive and chairman of UBS's wealth management unit from 2002 to 2007.

UBS paid a $780 million fine in 2009 after admitting to aiding and abetting US citizens accused of tax evasion.

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