WASHINGTON, Jan 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has received 106 requests from Swiss entities to participate in a U.S. settlement program aimed at ending a long-running probe of tax-dodging by Americans using Swiss bank accounts, a senior U.S. government official said on Saturday.
Speaking at a legal conference in Phoenix, Arizona, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Tax Division Kathryn Keneally said that not all the entities might be banks and would thus not be eligible.
Under the U.S. program the government of Switzerland signed last August, eligible Swiss banks will have to pay penalties and disclose account information about U.S. customers to avoid or defer U.S. prosecution.
The program is open only to banks not already under U.S. criminal investigation.
According to the program, Swiss banks had until the end of 2013 to submit a letter of intent to the Justice Department to begin the settlement process. A number of Swiss banks already said publicly last year they are participating in the program.
“We do not expect 106 non-prosecution agreements or deferred prosecution agreements,” Keneally said. “With those caveats we’re still pretty gratified by the response that we’ve gotten to the program.”
Under the program’s penalty provisions, a Swiss bank seeking nonprosecution must agree to a penalty equal to 20 percent of the total dollar amount of all hidden U.S. customer accounts held by the bank on Aug. 1, 2008.
The penalty increases to 30 percent and then to 50 percent, depending on how active a bank was in continuing to open secret accounts for Americans after the crackdown began.
The deal for the second-tier, or midsize, banks is part of a U.S. drive to lift the veil on Swiss bank secrecy following the 2009 deal that led UBS AG to pay $780 million in a settlement and to agree to hand over U.S. client names with secret Swiss accounts. (Reporting By Patrick Temple-West; Editing by Ted Botha and James Dalgleish)