Ex-UBS banker wanted in U.S. tax probe arrested in Italy

MILAN Mon Oct 21, 2013 5:26am EDT

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MILAN (Reuters) - A former top executive at Swiss bank UBS (UBSN.VX) wanted in the United States for allegedly helping wealthy Americans avoid paying tax was arrested in Italy at the weekend, the Bologna police said on Monday.

The United States declared Raoul Weil a fugitive in early 2009 after the former head of UBS's wealth management business failed to surrender to U.S. authorities on charges he conspired to help 17,000 Americans hide assets worth $20 billion in Swiss bank accounts.

That year, UBS was fined $780 million and agreed to hand over the names of about 4,450 U.S. clients with secret Swiss bank accounts to avoid facing criminal charges. The deal with the United States marked an historic break with Switzerland's tradition of bank secrecy.

A spokeswoman for the Bologna police said on Monday the arrest of the former banker had taken place on Saturday morning and she did not know whether he was still in the prison where police had taken him.

"Mr Weil checked into a Bologna hotel and this set off an alert system because there is an international arrest warrant for him coming from the U.S.," the spokeswoman said.

Reuters was not immediately able to contact Weil or a legal representative for him.

When Weil was indicted in November 2008, his attorney said he was innocent and called the indictment against him "totally unjustified."

A UBS spokesman said on Monday that Weil was discharged from this duties at the bank when he was indicted.

UBS's 2009 fine was followed this year with a deal between the Swiss and U.S. governments allowing some other Swiss banks to pay fines to avoid or defer prosecution over tax evasion by their U.S. customers.

(Reporting by Valentina Za, additional reporting by Silke Koltrowitz in Zurich. Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Erica Billingham)

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