May 28, 2015 / 4:25 PM / 4 years ago

U.S. reaches deals with four more banks under Swiss program

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Four more Swiss banks have cut deals with the U.S. Department of Justice to avoid possible prosecution for helping Americans evade taxes, the department said on Thursday.

People walk past a Societe Generale bank branch during rush-hour in Paris, May 19, 2015. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The banks are Societe Generale Private Banking (Lugano-Svizzera), MediBank AG, LBBW (Schweiz) AG, and Scobag Privatbank AG. The banks agreed to pay penalties ranging from $9,090 to $1.36 million.

The banks settled under a voluntary program the Justice Department launched in 2013 to allow Swiss banks to resolve potential criminal charges by disclosing cross-border activities that helped U.S. account holders conceal assets.

Under the program, banks also must provide detailed information on the accounts of U.S. taxpayers under investigation.

Three banks settled under the program earlier this year and dozens more are expected to do so in the coming months.

Banks that were already under criminal investigation, such as Julius Baer and HSBC’s Swiss private bank, were excluded from the program.

Swiss banks have come under intense pressure to give up their traditional secrecy in recent years.

The department is now investigating account holders, bank employees and others based on information supplied, in part, by the banks participating in the program, Acting Assistant Attorney General Caroline Ciraolo said in a statement.

“There is no safe haven,” Ciraolo said.

Societe Generale Private Banking, based in Lugano, will pay $1.36 million after managing over 100 U.S.-related accounts worth about $140 million since 2008, the Justice Department said.

The bank helped account holders conceal assets and income from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service through numbered accounts or holding accounts in the names of sham entities, the department said.

The other banks provided similar services.

MediBank AG, of Zug, Switzerland, will pay $826,000 after helping U.S. taxpayers hide assets, the department said. MediBank had 14 U.S.-related accounts worth $8.6 million under management since 2008.

LBBW (Schweiz), based in Zurich, held 35 U.S.-related accounts with $128 million in assets under management since August 2008, the department said. It will pay $34,000.

Scobag Privatbank AG, based in Basel, had 13 U.S.-related accounts worth nearly $7 million since 2008 and will pay a penalty of $9,090, according to the Justice Department.

The banks mitigated their penalties by encouraging U.S. taxpayers to meet their obligations, the department said.

The banks could not immediately be reached for comment.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld. Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York and and Sarah N. Lynch in Washington, D.C.; Editing by Alden Bentley; and Peter Galloway

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