Detained Swiss banker's fate up in the air
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida
FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (Reuters) - A Swiss private banker, held on a criminal complaint for 13 months without a formal indictment, was on Monday given 60 more days by a Florida court to go on trying to resolve the issue with U.S. authorities.
Christos Bagios, a Greek citizen and Swiss resident, was due
either to be indicted or have his case dismissed, but instead was granted the extension by Judge Lurana Snow in a federal courtroom in Ft. Lauderdale.
Bagios worked at Credit Suisse AG from early 2009 until this month, according to public securities records, and at UBS AG,, the Swiss bank giant, from 1993 to early 2009.
Under federal rules of criminal procedure, U.S. authorities have 30 days after bringing a criminal complaint to either indict a defendant or dismiss charges. An exception arises if, as in this case, the defendant waives his right to hearings that would result in an indictment or a dismissal.
Bagios has repeatedly, with the U.S. government's blessing, waived that right, most recently on Monday.
"Absent extraordinary circumstances, judges are loath to allow waivers for extended periods of time," said Robert Katzberg, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer in New York with clients of Swiss banks. "This is the longest waiver I have ever heard of, and by a lot."
Tax lawyers say the unusually long delay raises questions over whether Credit Suisse is seeking to protect Bagios from indictment as part of the bank's efforts to resolve its own legal situation with U.S. authorities over suspicions that it enabled scores of wealthy Americans to evade taxes through undeclared Swiss accounts.
Credit Suisse acknowledged last July that it had received a target letter from the U.S. Department of Justice notifying it that it was formally under criminal investigation for selling tax-evasion services to wealthy Americans. The bank has said it is cooperating with the investigation.
Bagios was arrested in New York in January 2011 and accused in a criminal complaint of helping about 150 U.S. clients hide as much as $500 million from the tax-collecting IRS when he worked at UBS.
He was transferred to Ft. Lauderdale, released on two bonds that together total $650,000, put up in a housing complex under house arrest and forced to wear an ankle monitoring bracelet.
At the time of his arrest, Bagios was head of Credit Suisse's Relationship Management West Coast group, a private banking unit that is part of Credit Suisse Private Advisors in Zurich, according to the bank's website.
(Reporting by Kevin Gray in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and Lynnley Browning in Fairfield, Connecticut; Editing by Richard Chang)