Bradley Birkenfeld, the former UBS AG (UBSN) banker who went to prison after telling the Internal Revenue Service how the bank helped thousands of Americans evade taxes, secured a whistle-blower award of $104 million, the largest individual federal payout in U.S. history.
Birkenfeld told authorities how UBS bankers came to the U.S. to woo rich Americans, managed $20 billion of their assets and helped them cheat the IRS. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy in 2008, a year after reporting the bank’s conduct to the Justice Department, U.S. Senate, IRS and Securities and Exchange Commission. He left prison on Aug. 1.
“The IRS sent 104 million messages to whistle-blowers around the world — that there is now a safe and secure way to report tax fraud,” Birkenfeld’s attorney Stephen M. Kohn said today at a news conference in Washington. He is seeking a presidential pardon for Birkenfeld, who is under home confinement.
Birkenfeld’s disclosures preceded UBS’s decision to pay $780 million to avoid prosecution, admit it fostered tax evasion from 2000 to 2007 and turn over data on 250 Swiss accounts. UBS later agreed to provide information on another 4,450 accounts. Since then, at least 33,000 Americans have voluntarily disclosed offshore accounts to the IRS, generating more than $5 billion.
The UBS case led to an erosion of the use of Swiss bank secrecy by wealthy Americans to cheat the IRS. At least 11 banks are under criminal investigation in the U.S. Two dozen offshore bankers, lawyers and advisers, as well as 50 American taxpayers, have been charged with crimes.
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