Credit Suisse bankers indicted in U.S. tax probe

WASHINGTON Wed Feb 23, 2011 6:49pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Bankers at a Swiss bank, identified by sources as Credit Suisse, were charged with helping Americans dodge U.S. taxes in a widening probe into offshore banks.

U.S. officials are investigating other banks after UBS AG in the past two years paid $780 million and agreed to hand over nearly 5,000 account names to the U.S. government to settle tax evasion charges.

The latest indictment, filed on Wednesday, charges four current and former bankers at a large Swiss international bank with encouraging Americans to use offshore credit cards and to move money to other banks from Israel to Hong Kong.

The indictment details meetings of the bankers with unidentified clients from Beverly Hills to New York to plot strategies for evading taxes, including keeping money transfers below $10,000 to avoid detection.

The bank was not named in the court filings, but two sources familiar with the case said it was Credit Suisse.

"The government understands that in order to flush out another batch of noncompliant foreign account holders along the lines of what happened with UBS, it must take down other banks following the UBS template," said Edward Robbins, a former assistant U.S. attorney for tax matters and now a lawyer for the wealthy.

"Looks to me like Credit Suisse is the next in line," he added.

Credit Suisse spokesman David Walker said the bank is cooperating with authorities and said the bank "is not a target of the investigation."

UBS and Credit Suisse are the two biggest banks in Switzerland, a nation that prizes its banking secrecy.

"We are cooperating with the authorities in their investigation of these individuals," The indictment said the bank, while not a target of the indictment, "maintained thousands of undeclared accounts containing approximately $3 billion in total assets under management."

Marco Adami, Emanuel Agustoni, Michele Bergantino and Roger Schaerer are the bankers listed in the indictment.

Adami is listed as in senior management at Credit Suisse and has been at the bank since 1988, according to the social networking site LinkedIn, which also says he is partial to golfing and skiing.

The bankers are at large and being sought by U.S. authorities.

Earlier on Wednesday, German prosecutors raided Credit Suisse offices as part of an ongoing tax probe.

And on Tuesday, U.S. officials said a Credit Suisse banker was arrested in New York and was being moved to Florida for a court appearance. It was unclear whether the probes were related.

MOVING MONEY

The indictment says the bank's managers and bankers used its New York office to provide services for undeclared accounts and that they advised clients to use offshore credit cards.

It also alleges defendants discouraged U.S. customers from taking part in the U.S. tax amnesty program that lured in 15,000 tax dodgers in 2009. The U.S. just revived that program, with less generous terms.

The court filing also names two unnamed private Swiss banks and an Israeli bank with headquarters in Tel Aviv, with a subsidiary in Switzerland.

The indictment alleges the bankers spurred their clients to move money from Credit Suisse to smaller Swiss banks, the Israeli bank and a bank in Hong Kong.

U.S. tax commissioner Douglas Shulman has said authorities are looking beyond Europe to Asia as money moves globally amid the U.S. probes into foreign banks.

Shulman recently said a number of other banks are under investigation, including some probes in advanced stages.

The indictment was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, No. 1:11-CR-95.

(Additional reporting by Kevin Gray in Ft. Lauderdale, Martin De Sa'Pinto in Zurich, Maria Aspan in New York and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; editing by Jack Reerink, Tim Dobbyn and Andre Grenon)

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