Florida tax evasion trial of ex-UBS banker delayed eight months

MIAMI Fri Feb 7, 2014 12:03pm EST

MIAMI Feb 7 (Reuters) - A Florida judge has agreed to an eight-month delay in the trial of Raoul Weil, a former high-ranking UBS banker charged with tax fraud by U.S. authorities.

Weil's lawyers requested the delay in light of the massive amount of evidence that has been produced over the past couple of weeks.

Weil, a 54-year-old Swiss citizen, is charged with helping Americans dodge taxes for UBS via secret Swiss bank accounts.

The trial which was due to start on Feb. 18, has been moved back to Oct. 14, according to an order signed by federal Judge James Cohn on Thursday.

Discovery began in January after Weil pleaded not guilty and was released on $10.5 million bail by a judge in Fort Lauderdale.

Weil's New York attorney, Aaron Marcu, confirmed that the defense needed more time to review documents and prepare for the case.

"In tax investigations of UBS and thousands of account holders that covered some 8 years, the government collected a large volume of documents, 4 million pages of which it has just given to us," Marcu said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

"We strongly suspect that very little in the 4 million documents has anything to do with Mr. Weil, but we will need time to review them and confirm that," he said.

Weil is "looking forward to challenging the allegations in court," he added.

Weil, the ex-head of wealth management at UBS, was arrested in mid-October while on vacation with his wife at an upscale hotel in the northern Italian city of Bologna.

He was extradited to the United States in December and if found guilty faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit tax fraud.

Weil's attorneys claim the government documents provided lack metadata information, such as the names of email senders and recipients, which would allow attorneys to search and prioritize data, according to court documents.

The trial could help the United States and other Western countries step up their hunt for individuals and companies that use opaque offshore financial centers to avoid paying taxes.

In a landmark 2009 settlement UBS paid a $780 million fine and agreed to hand over the names of U.S. clients with secret accounts, breaking Switzerland's tradition of banking secrecy, to avoid feared criminal charges against the bank or other executives.

Critics of the government's efforts to prosecute UBS fear Weil may be given a sweetheart deal to protect some of the bank's clients, who they say include U.S. politicians, according to Stephen Kohn, director of the National Whistleblower Center.

Weil's lawyers have previously denied they are involved in any plea negotiations.

Weil's trial is likely to be followed by tax authorities in other countries as well. Tax experts say much still needs to be done to ensure financial centers in Asia and the Middle East come on board.

Though pressure has increased on well-known tax havens such as Switzerland and the Cayman Islands, new countries are emerging as popular tax havens.

The case is USA v Weil Case 0:08-CR-60322-JIC-1

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