WASHINGTON Nov 12 The Internal Revenue Service
has obtained court orders to force five U.S. banks to divulge
information about U.S. account holders who allegedly hid money
with banks based in Switzerland and Bermuda to evade taxes,
federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
In two "John Doe" summonses authorized by U.S. district
court judges in Manhattan, the five banks must turn over
information on taxpayers suspected of hiding money with two
foreign banks, Switzerland's Zurcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) and
Bermuda's the Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Ltd.
The IRS uses "John Doe" summonses to get information about
possible tax law-breakers whose identities are unknown. The
summonses were granted last week and Tuesday, said a statement
from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
The five banks targeted are Citibank, Bank of New York
Mellon Corp, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America
and the U.S. branch of Britain's HSBC.
The five banks are not accused of wrongdoing. They held
correspondent accounts for the two foreign banks that were used
to do transactions in U.S. markets, the statement said.
"These John Doe summonses for correspondent account records
show our determination to pursue evaders using offshore accounts
even if the person hiding money overseas chooses a bank that has
no offices on U.S. soil," said Daniel Werfel, the acting
Internal Revenue Service commissioner, in a statement.
Representatives from both ZKB and Butterfield could not be
reached for comment after normal business hours on Tuesday. Both
banks have previously held secret bank accounts for Americans
who were evading taxes, prosecutors said.
As part of a tax-evasion crackdown, the IRS has a voluntary
disclosure program that allows Americans to come clean about
money hidden abroad and pay penalties to avoid prosecution.
Through this program, U.S. taxpayers have disclosed 371
accounts at ZKB and 81 accounts at Butterfield, the IRS said.