July 22, 2009 / 7:38 PM / in 8 years

Univision's Saban says tax lawyer lawsuit frivolous

LOS ANGELES, July 22 (Reuters) - Billionaire media mogul Haim Saban believes a lawsuit filed against him this week by his former tax attorney is “frivolous” and will not stop Saban from recovering $36 million in fees he paid to the attorney, a spokesman for Saban said on Wednesday.

Matthew Gale Krane, a prominent Hollywood attorney, wants a Los Angeles court to rule that Saban cannot seize the funds through a lawsuit he filed last year in Austria, where Krane placed the money.

Krane “defrauded ... Saban and laundered illegal kickbacks he received in connection with recommending” and placing $1.5 billion of Saban’s funds “in an illegal tax shelter,” Saban spokesman Brian Shiver said in a statement.

Saban has obtained an injunction freezing Krane’s funds in the Austria case and he sees Krane’s lawsuit as, “a transparent attempt to distract from (his) right to recover the funds,” Shiver said.

Saban, one of America’s 300 richest people as of 2009 according to Forbes, is the chairman of privately held Spanish-language broadcaster Univision who parlayed a U.S. license for the “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers” into a media empire.

Krane, who is jailed in Los Angeles awaiting trial on federal identity theft and passport fraud charges, also was indicted last month in a separate conspiracy and tax evasion case in Seattle involving former executives of the Quellos Group investment firm, according to indictments.

Prosecutors in the Seattle case say Krane got $36 million in kickbacks from Quellos for steering Saban to the tax plan, which Senate investigators said made billions of dollars worth of fake securities trades to show losses that would offset real taxable capital gains.

Saban told the Senate committee that he had been duped by Quellos, but ended up paying the Internal Revenue Service $250 million in back taxes on his Fox Family gains.

The case is Matthew Gale Krane vs. Haim Saban, Case No. BC418250, Los Angeles Superior Court. (Reporting by Gina Keating; editing by Andre Grenon)

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