February 26, 2014 / 11:17 PM / 4 years ago

Ex-UBS banker pleads guilty in U.S. offshore tax case

Feb 26 (Reuters) - A former UBS AG banker pleaded guilty on Wednesday to conspiring to defraud the United States by helping wealthy Americans evade taxes.

Martin Lack, a 51-year-old Swiss resident, pleaded guilty in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to a single conspiracy count in a 2011 indictment stemming from a broad U.S. probe of offshore banking activities.

The plea marks the latest development in a series of U.S. law enforcement actions that have resulted in charges against nearly three dozen bankers and advisers.

Lack worked at UBS from the early 1990’s until 2003, according to the indictment, before founding his own investment management firm, Lack & Partner Asset Management.

The indictment accused Lack of assisting U.S. customers in opening and maintaining secret bank accounts at UBS and a Swiss cantonal bank for the purpose of concealing income and assets and filing false tax returns.

Prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of five years probation under a plea agreement with Lack, according his lawyer.

Lack surrendered to U.S. authorities in October and is free to return to Switzerland on $750,000 bail. Formal sentencing is scheduled for May 7.

“Mr. Lack is eager to get these proceedings over with, to resume his life with his family and have this matter put behind him,” his lawyer Peter Raben said in an interview.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice had no immediate comment.

Authorities in the United States are examining whether 14 Swiss banks had roles in helping potentially tens of thousands of Americans avoid paying billions of dollars in taxes.

In 2009, UBS, Switzerland’s largest bank, agreed to pay $780 million and admit to helping Americans evade taxes, and it gave names to U.S. authorities.

The U.S. Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a report on Tuesday saying Credit Suisse Group AG had opened accounts for more than 22,000 U.S. customers with as much as $12 billion in assets. A hearing was held on Wednesday.

Since 2009, the Justice Department has charged 73 taxpayers and 35 bankers and advisers in a probe of offshore banking activities.

Raoul Weil, the former head of wealth management at UBS, was extradited to the United States in December to face a charge of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. His trial is scheduled for Oct. 14.

The case is U.S. v. Lack, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 11-cr-60184.

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