Fugitive Swiss bank Wegelin forfeits $16 mln

April 24 Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:57pm EDT

April 24 (Reuters) - Wegelin & Co, the oldest Swiss private bank, has forfeited more than $16 million held in a UBS AG account, after in February becoming the first overseas bank indicted in the United States for allegedly helping U.S. taxpayers evade taxes.

In an order made public on Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan entered the forfeiture order, covering money seized from a U.S. correspondent account held at UBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

U.S. prosecutors on Feb. 2 accused Wegelin of helping clients hide more than $1.2 billion in offshore bank accounts. They said the tax fraud conspiracy ran from 2002 and 2011, and involved more than 100 U.S. taxpayers.

The indictment was part of a crackdown on alleged tax fraud, including efforts to pierce the tradition of Swiss bank secrecy.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney in New York, said the forfeited funds will be deposited with the U.S. Treasury.

Swain's colleague, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, on Feb. 10 declared Wegelin a fugitive after it failed to answer the criminal charge. Wegelin has no branches outside Switzerland, and had followed the common industry practice of using correspondent banking services to handle money for U.S. clients.

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